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This is the famous classic that has sold more than a 
quarter million copies. 

It is the story of this celebrated writer's spiritual 
odyssey, his journey up and down India to seek out and 
interview holy people. We meet such fascinating figures 
as Meher Baba - the silent Messiah; Shri Shankara - the 
spiritual Head of South India; the Master Mahasaya; 
Sahabji Maharaj: Hazrat Babajan - a woman fakir; 
Vishudhananda - the Magician; and many others. 

The reader will especially relish the account of how Paul 
Brunton met his own guru, Shri Ramana Maharshi, the 
sage of Arunachala. Because of this book, Ramana 
became well known within India and throughout the 
West. Today there are Ramanashrams all over the 

The London Times said of A Search in Secret India, 

"His work is excellent. It has life, color, movement. 
Readers will find their interest unflagging from the first 
page to the last." Students on any spiritual path will en- 
joy sharing this experience with Paul Brunton. 

ISBN Q-fl77E&-b02-7 

9 '780877'? 86028 

Box 612 

York Beach, Maine 03910 

Cover design by Alden Cole 

The works of Dr Brunton 

In chronological order 
















York Beach, Maine 

First American paperback published in 1970 by 

Samuel Weiser, Inc. 

Box 612 

York Beach, Maine 03910-0612 

Revised edition, 1985 

Reprinted, 1994 

Copyright © 1985 Kenneth Thurston Hurst 

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or 
transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, 
including photocopy, without permission in writing from Samuel Weiser, 
Inc. Reviewers may quote brief passages. 

First published in England in 1934 by Rider & Co., London 

First American edition published in 1935 by E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc., 
New York. Copyright© 1935 E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc. 
Copyright © 1962 renewed by Paul Brunton. 

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 83-50400 

ISBN 0-87728-602-7 

Cover art is a reproduction of the painting Remember, by Nicholas 
Roerich. Copyright © 1985 Nicholas Roerich Museum. Reproduced 
by permission. 

Printed in the United States of America 

The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of 
the American National Standard for Permanence of Paper for Printed 
Library Materials Z39. 48-1984. 


























The following illustrations will be found between pages 116 and 117. 




























Dr. Paul Brunton died July 27, 1981, in Vevey, Switzerland. 
Born in London in 1898, he authored thirteen books from "A 
Search in Secret India" published in 1934 to "The Spiritual 
Crisis of Man" in 1952. Dr. Brunton is generally recognized as 
having introduced yoga and meditation to the West, and for 
presenting their philosophical background in non-technical 

His mode of writing was to jot down paragraphs as inspira- 
tion occurred. Often these were penned on the backs of 
envelopes or along margins of newspapers as he strolled amid 
the flower gardens bordering Lac Leman. They later were 
typed and classified by subject. He then would edit and meld 
these paragraphs into a coherent narrative. 

Paul Brunton had lived in Switzerland for twenty years. He 
liked the mild climate and majestic mountain scenery. Visitors 
and correspondence came from all over the world. He played 
an important role in the lives of many. 

"P.B.", as he is known to his followers, was a gentle man. An 
aura of kindliness emanated from him. His scholarly learning 
was forged in the crucible of life. His spirituality shone forth 
like a beacon. But he discouraged attempts to form a cult 
around him: "You must find your own P.B. within 
yourselves," he used to say. 



A Search in Secret India was an instant success when published 
in 1934. It continues to be popular after many reprintings, 
and has been translated into several languages. Written at 
the age of thirty-five, it was my father's first book. To mark the 
occasion, he adopted the pen name of Paul Brunton. 

This is the story of his personal odyssey, his search for holy 
men to guide him on his quest. To this task he brought all his 
professional journalistic skills coupled with an extensive 
background in spiritual research. 

My father was a pathfinder. In this book he introduced the 
terms yoga and meditation to the Western world. He travelled the 
length and breadth of the sub-continent interviewing yogis, 
fakirs, and mystics, exploring a side of India previously unknown 
to foreigners. His story became a tale of high spiritual 

Fifty years later I retraced my father's steps and journeyed 
around India giving "in memoriam" lectures in his honor. I 
learned that his name is still held in highest esteem. Many 
Indians told me they discovered their country's spiritual 
dimension from this very book. I made a pilgrimage to the same 
ashram he discovered and offered my obeisance in the 
meditation hall where Ramana Maharshi had lived. I saw the 
small bungalow my father had inhabited, and I gazed up at 
towering Arunachala. 

The highlight of my trip was my encounter with His Holiness 
Shri Shankara Acharya, the Spiritual Head of South India, whom 
my father describes in Chapter VIII. I had no prior intention of 
meeting him, but upon leaving the Ramanashram, decided to 
seek him out. After driving along country roads for three hours 
and locating the village where he was staying, history seemed to 
repeat itself as I was told there was no chance of my being 


granted an audience with him. However, a friendly disciple 
agreed to submit my card and returned with the news that His 
Holiness would received me at the rear of the temple, to avoid 
the crowds milling in front. His slight figure, clad in a saffron 
robe, reflected his ninety-one years. I told him I was the son of 
Paul Brunton. He replied briefly. The interpreter informed me, 
"He knows!" His Holiness spoke again. "He has been waiting for 
you! He has been expecting you," said the interpreter. But how 
did he even know of me? How did he know I was in India, I 
wondered to myself? I held out a copy of this book and showed 
him his photograph, taken when he was thirty-eight. "I know!" 
was his comment. 

At this point I had hoped to elicit his views on the world 
situation as had my father previously. But suddenly all questions 
melted, as I felt an onrush of peace and love. All I could do was 
prostrate myself in the time-honored tradition at the feet of His 
Holiness as he gave me his blessing. He then put around my neck 
a sacred mala, a garland fashioned from fragrant sandalwood. I 
wear it daily. 

Thus the wheel came full circle half a century later. 

Kenneth Thurston Hurst 
August, 1985 



"SACRED INDIA" would be as apt a title for this book. For 

it is a quest for that India which is only secret because it is 

so sacred. The holiest things in life are not bruited abroad 

in public. The sure instinct of the human soul is to keep them 

withdrawn in the inmost recesses accessible to few - perhaps to 

none. Certainly only to those who care for spiritual things. 

And with a country as with an individual. The most sacred 
things a country keeps secret. It would not be easy for a stranger 
to discover what England holds most sacred. And it is the same 
with India. The most sacred part of India is the most 

Now secret things require much searching for; but those who 
seek will find. Those who seek with their whole heart and with 
the real determination to find will at last discover the 

Mr. Brunton had that determination, and he did in the end 
find. The difficulties were very great though. For in India, as 
everywhere else, there is much spurious spirituality through 
which a way must be forced before the true can be found. There 
is an innumerable crowd of mental acrobats and contortionists 
through which the seeker after pure spirituality must elbow his 
way. These men have trained their mental as well as bodily 
muscles till they are extraordinarily efficient They have exercised 
powers of concentration till they have nearly complete control 
over their mental processes. Many of them have developed what 
we call occult powers. 


These are all interesting enough in their way and are well 
worth study by scientific men interested in psychic phenomena. 
But they are not the real thing. They are not the springs whence 
spirituality comes gushing. 

They do not form the secret sacred India that Mr. Brunton 
was seeking. He saw them. He noted them. He describes them. 
But he pushed through them. Spirituality at its finest and purest 
is what he wanted. And this he found at last. 

Remote from the haunts of men, deep in the jungles to 
which - or to the Himalayas - the holiest men in India always 
return, Mr. Brunton found the very embodiment of all that India 
holds most sacred. The Maharishee - the Great Sage - was the 
man who made most appeal to Mr. Brunton. He is not the only 
one of his kind. Up and down India others - not many, but a 
very, very few - may be found. They represent the true genius of 
India, and it is through them that the Mighty Genius of the 
Universe manifests Himself in peculiar degree. 

They, therefore, are among the objects most worth searching 
for on this earth. And in this book we have the results of one 
such quest. 



Since its original publication in 1934, so much has changed in 
India that many details of this narrative will seem foreign to 
today's reader. However, the encounters described in A 
Search in Secret India have lost nothing of their value over the 
years, and I still fully affirm the fundamental truth of this 

At the time this book was written, two important groups of 
mystics existed in India. The well known mystics were snake 
charmers, hypnotists, soothsayers, and others, who developed 
special abilities and attained a certain power in their domain. The 
other group consisted of people who searched for God through 
various meditation practices. This group of mystics was smaller in 
number, but they could be found scattered across the whole of 
India, and they were very important people in Indian 

Contacts with Western educational methods and achievements, 
threats of Japanese and Chinese invasions, as well as the 
realization of the necessity for a higher standard of living, led the 
younger Indian people to a more secular and more science- 
oriented world view. Nehru's policy of modernization and 
industrialization favored this, while mysticism, metaphysics and 
yoga promised no great material advantages. 

A beneficial result of these changes has enabled women to 
have more freedom than before. Ananda Mayee leaves her main 
Ashram in old Benares to wander across the land visiting and 
teaching her disciples. She is greeted with reverance and 
admiration, and even met with Nehru on her travels. It is no 
longer easy for fanatics, charlatans and those obsessed by religious 
delusions to exploit the local villagers. Progress in the larger cities 
has caused city dwellers to become more and more motivated by 
political passions, and their disputes are sometimes violent. 
When I was there, these people were much more friendly. 


Most of the Indian sages whom I portray have parted form the 
earth, but I shall never forget them. Two of these sages have 
made the most profound impression on me: one is the 
Maharishee of Arunachala, who has crossed the threshold of 
death; the other is Shri Shankara Acharya of Kanchi,* who is the 
spiritual leader of South India. He is widely respected by all those 
whom I consider competent to evaluate the spiritual attainment 
of a man, and he is, of all of India's living holy men, by far the 
most enlightened. 

It is perhaps appropriate to mention another very special 
person, who for some years has lived as a refugee in the foothills 
of the Himalayas: the Dalai Lama of Tibet. Although still a young 
man, he has a profound knowledge of the teachings of 
Buddhism. To the enemies who so cruelly fight to suppress his 
homeland, he has demonstrated an attitude that comes close to 
that of Jesus. 

When I first wrote this book, I expressed my regrets that so 
few people in the West seemed interested in "the Spiritual 
India." These regrets no longer apply. In the course of the last 20 
or 30 years, Westerners have begun to journey to India and the 
Ashrams of well-known Yoga masters. Many serious books have 
been published in Western languages in which religious- 
philosophical Indian writings are presented and explained. What 
was once the search of a few has now become the longing of 
hundreds from Europe and the United States. 

Paul Brunton 
Rome, February 1967 

*Not to be confused with three other sages of the same name in North, 

East, and West India. 

(Publisher's Note: Ananda Mayee is no longer living.) 




T-IERE is an obscure passage in the yellowed book of 
Indian life which I have endeavoured to elucidate 
for the benefit of Western readers. Early travellers 
returned home to Europe with weird tales of the Indian 
faqueers and even modern travellers occasionally bring 
similar stories. 

What is the truth behind those legends which come ever and 
anon to our ears, concerning a mysterious class of men called 
Yogis 1 by some and faqueers by others? What is the truth 
behind the fitful hints which reach us intimating that there 
exists in India an old wisdom that promises the most extra- 
ordinary development of mental powers to those who practise 
it? I set out on a long journey to find it and the following 
pages summarize my report. 

"Summarize" I say, because the inexorable exigencies of 
space and time required me to write of one Yogi where I had 
met more. Therefore I have selected a few who interested me 
most, and who seemed likely to interest the Western world. 
One heard much of certain so-called holy men who possessed 
repute of having acquired deep wisdom and strange powers; 
so one travelled through scorching days and sleepless nights 
to find them - only to find well-intentioned fools, scriptural 
slaves, venerable know-nothings, money-seeking conjurers, 
jugglers with a few tricks, and pious frauds. To fill my pages 
with the records of such people would be worthless to the 
reader and is a distasteful task to me. Therefore I omit the 
tale of time wasted upon them. 

1 Pronounced Yogees. 


I feel quite humbly that I have been privileged to see a 
remote aspect of India seldom seen and less understood by 
ordinary travellers. Among the English residents in that vast 
land only an infinitesimal fraction has cared to study this 
aspect, and of this fraction very few were free enough to 
examine it more deeply and give their report, for official 
dignity must needs be respected. Therefore, English writers 
who have touched on this subject swing over to a hearty 
scepticism which, by its very nature, renders many sources of 
native knowledge not readily available to them, and which 
causes the Indian who really knows something about the less 
superficial side of the matter to shrink from discussing it with 
them. The white man will, in most cases, possess but an 
imperfect acquaintance with the Yogis, if he knows them at 
all, and certainly not with the best of them. The latter are 
now but a mere handful in the very country of their origin. 
They are exceedingly rare, are fond of hiding their true attain- 
ment from the public, and prefer to pose as ignoramuses. In 
India, in Tibet and in China, they get rid of the Western 
traveller who may happen to blunder in upon their privacy, 
by maintaining a studied appearance of insignificance and 
ignorance. Perhaps they would see some sense in Emerson's 
abrupt phrase : "To be great is to be misunderstood"; I do 
not know. Anyway, they are mostly recluses who do not care 
to mingle with mankind. Even when met with they are 
unlikely to break their reserve except after some period of 
acquaintance. Hence little has been written in Western con- 
tinents about the strange life of these Yogis and even that little 
remains vague. 

The reports of Indian writers are indeed available, but they 
must be read with great care. It is an unfortunate fact that the 
Hindus lack any critical approach to these matters and will mix 
hearsay with fact quite indiscriminately. Therefore such 
reports diminish greatly in truth as documentary records. 
When I saw the cataract of credulity which covers so many 
Eastern eyes, I thanked Heaven for such scientific training as 
the West has given me and for the common sense attitude 
which journalistic experience had instilled in me. There is 
a basis of fact underlying much Oriental superstition, but 
vigilance is needed to discover it. I was compelled to keep 
a critical but not hostile eye widely open wherever I went. 
Those who learned that I was interested in the mystical and 
miraculous, apart from my philosophical concerns, applied 
liberal paint and plentiful varnish to their few facts; many 


would think nothing of indulging in breath-taking exaggera- 
tions. I might have spent my time trying to teach them 
that Truth is so strong she can stand upon her own legs 
without falling to the ground, but I had other things to do. 
I felt glad, however, that I had preferred to gain my knowl- 
edge of Oriental wonders at first hand, just as I prefer Christ's 
wisdom to his commentators' ignorance. I searched through 
a welter of crass superstitions, incredible impostures and 
ancient pretensions for those things which are true, which 
will stand the acid test of thorough investigation. I flatter 
myself that I could never have done this did I not contain 
within my complex nature the two elements of scientific 
scepticism and spiritual sensitivity, elements which usually 
range themselves in sharp conflict and flagrant opposition. 
I have titled this book Secret India because it tells of an India 
which has been hidden from prying eyes for thousands of years, 
which has kept itself so exclusive that to-day only its rapidly 
disappearing remnants are left. The manner in which the 
Yogis kept their knowledge so esoteric may appear selfish to us 
in these democratic days, but it helps to account for their 
gradual disappearance from visible history. Thousands of 
Englishmen live in India and hundreds visit it each year. Yet 
few know anything of what may one day prove more worthy to 
the world than even the prized pearls and valuable stones 
which ships bring us from India. Fewer still have taken the 
trouble to go out of their way to find the adepts in Yoga, 1 while 
not one Englishman in a thousand is prepared to prostrate 
himself before a brown, half-naked figure in some lonely cave 
or in a disciple-filled room. Such is the inevitable barrier 
imposed by this form of caste that even men of generous 
character and developed intellect, if suddenly taken from their 
habitations in the British quarters and set down in such a cave, 
would find a Yogi's company uncongenial and his ideas unin- 

Yet the Englishman in India, whether soldier, civil servant, 
business man or traveller, is not to be blamed because he is too 
proud to squat on the mat of the Yogi. Quite apart from the 
business of upholding British prestige, doubtless an important 
and necessary procedure, the kind of holy man he usually 
encounters is more likely to repel than attract. It is certainly 
no loss to avoid such a man. Nevertheless it is a pity that after 
a sojourn of many years the English resident will often leave 


Pronounced Yohg. Its spelling is unphonetic. 


the country in blameless ignorance of what lies behind the 
frontal brain of an Indian sage. 

I plainly remember my interview with a Cockney under the 
shadow of Trichinopoly's gigantic rock fort. For over twenty 
years he had held a responsible post on the Indian railways. 
It was inevitable that I should ply him with many questions 
about his life in this sunburnt land. Finally I trotted out my 
pet interrogation, "Have you met any Yogis?" 

He looked at me somewhat blankly and then replied : 
'Yogis? What are they? Some kind of animal?" 
Such ignorance would have been perfectly pardonable had 
he stayed at home within the sound of Bow Bells; now, after 
twenty-six years' residence in the country, it was perfectly 
blissful. I permitted it to remain undisturbed. 

Because I put pride underfoot in moving among the varied 
peoples who inhabit Hindustan; because I gave them a ready 
understanding and an intellectual sympathy, a freedom from 
finicky prejudice and a regard for character irrespective of 
colour; and because I had sought Truth all my life and was 
prepared to accept whatsoever Truth brought in its train, I 
am able to write this record. I picked my way through a crowd 
of superstitious fools and self-styled faqueers in order to sit at 
the feet of true sages, there to learn at first hand the real teach- 
ings of Indian Yoga. I squatted on the floor in many a secluded 
hermitage, surrounded by brown faces and hearing strange 
dialects. I sought out those reserved and reclusive men, the 
best Yogis, and listened humbly to their oracular instruction. I 
talked for hours with the Brahmin pundits of Benares, discuss- 
ing the age-old questions of philosophy and belief which have 
tormented the mind and troubled the heart of man since he 
first began to think. I stopped now and then to divert myself 
with the magician and wonder-worker, and strange incidents 
crossed my trails. 

I wanted to gather the real facts about the Yogis of to-day by 
the method of first-hand investigation. I prided myself that 
experience as a journalist fitted me to draw out, with the least 
possible delay, much of the information which I sought; that 
sitting at the editorial desk and curtly wielding the blue pencil 
had trained me to become ruthlessly critical in separating wheat 
from chaff; and that the contact with men and women in 
every grade of life which the profession generally gives, with 
ragged mendicants as well as well-fed millionaires, would help me 
move just a little more smoothly through the variegated masses of 
India, among whom I searched for those strange men, the Yogis. 


On the other side of the sheet I had lived an inner life totally 
detached from my outward circumstance. I spent much of 
my spare time in the study of recondite books and in little- 
known bypaths of psychological experiment. I delved into 
subjects which always have been wrapped in Cimmerian 
mystery. To these items must be added an inborn attraction 
towards things Oriental. The East, before my first visit, threw 
out vast tentacles that gripped my soul; ultimately they drew 
me to study the sacred books of Asia, the learned commen- 
taries of her pundits and the inscribed thoughts of her sages, 
so far as English translations could be procured. 

This dual experience proved of great value. It taught me 
never to permit my sympathy with Oriental methods of probing 
life's mysteries, subvert my scientific desire of critically and 
impartially finding the facts. Without that sympathy I could 
never have gone among people and into places where the 
average Englishman in India may disdain to tread. Without 
that strict, scientific attitude I might have been led away into 
the wilderness of superstition, as so many Indians seem to 
have been led away. It is not easy to conjoin qualities which 
are usually held to be contradictory, but I sincerely tried to 
hold them in sane balance. 


That the West has little to learn from present-day India, I 
shall not trouble to deny, but that we have much to learn from 
Indian sages of the past and from the few who live to-day, I 
unhesitatingly assert. The white tourist who "does" the chief 
cities and historical sights and then steams away with disgust 
at the backward civilization of India is doubtless justified in 
his depreciation of it. Yet a wiser kind of tourist shall one day 
arise who will seek out, not the crumbling ruins of useless 
temples, nor the marbled palaces of dissipated kings long dead, 
but the living sages who can reveal a wisdom untaught by our 

Are these Indians mere idlers sprawling in the fierce tropic 
sun? Have they done nothing, thought nothing that is of worth 
to the rest of the world? The traveller who can see only their 
material degeneration and mental flabbiness has not seen far. 
Let him substitute consideration for his contempt and he may 
open sealed lips and hidden doors. 

Grant that India has nodded and snored for centuries; 
grant that even to-day there exist millions of peasants in this 


land who suffer the same illiteracy, share the same outlook 
blended of puerile superstition and kindergarten religion as did 
English peasants of the fourteenth century. Grant further 
that the Brahmin pundits in native centres of learning waste 
their useless years splitting sacerdotal hairs and drawing 
metaphysical wire as subtly as our own medieval scholastics 
ever did. Yet there still remains a small but priceless residue 
of culture classified under the generic term Yoga, which proffers 
benefits to mankind as valuable in their own way as any prof- 
fered by the Western sciences. It can bring our bodies nearer 
the healthy condition which Nature intended them to possess; 
it can bestow one of modern civilization's most urgent needs - 
a flawless serenity of mind; and it can open the way to enduring 
treasures of the spirit to those who will labour for them. I 
admit that this great wisdom hardly belongs to India's present, 
but to her past; that this guarded knowledge of Yoga flourishes 
little to-day when once it must have had worthy professors and 
faithful students. It may be that the secrecy in which it was 
carefully enshrouded succeeded in killing all spread of this 
ancient science; I do not know. 

It is perhaps not amiss, then, if one asks one's Western 
fellows to look Eastward, not for a new faith, but for a few 
pebbles of knowledge to cast upon our present heap. When 
Orientalists like Burnouf, Colebrooke and Max Muller appeared 
upon learning's scene and brought us some of the literary 
treasures of India, the savants of Europe began to understand 
that the heathens who inhabited that country were not so 
stupid as our own ignorance had presumed. Those clever 
people who profess to find Asiatic learning empty of useful 
thoughts for the West thereby prove their own emptiness. 
Those practical persons who would fling the epithet "stupid" 
at its study, succeed only in flinging it at their own narrow- 
mindedness. If our ideas about life are to be wholly deter- 
mined by a mere accident of space, by the chance that we 
were born in Bristol instead of Bombay, then we are not worthy 
the name of civilized man. Those who close their minds to the 
entrance of all Eastern ideas, close them also to fine thoughts, 
deep truths and worth-while psychological knowledge. Who- 
ever will poke about among this musty lore of the Orient in 
the hope of finding some precious gems of strange fact and 
stranger wisdom, will find his quest no vain one. 



I journeyed Eastwards in search of the Yogis and their 
hermetic knowledge. The thought of finding a spiritual light 
and diviner life was also entertained, though it was not my 
primary purpose. I wandered along the banks of India's holy 
rivers - the quiet, grey-green Ganges, the broad Jumna and the 
picturesque Godavari - in this quest. I circled the country. 
India took me to her heart and the vanishing remnant of her 
sages opened many a door for the unfamiliar Westerner. 

Not so long ago I was among those who regard God as 
a hallucination of human fancy, spiritual truth as a mere 
nebula and providential justice as a confection for infantile 
idealists. I, too, was somewhat impatient of those who con- 
struct theological paradises and who then confidently show 
you round with an air of being God's estate agents. I had 
nothing but contempt for what seemed to be the futile, 
fanatical efforts of uncritical theorisers. 

If, therefore, I have begun to think a little differently about 
these matters, rest assured that good cause has been given me. 
Yet I did not arrive at paying allegiance to any Eastern creed; 
indeed, those which matter I had already studied intellectually 
much earlier. I did arrive at a new acceptance of the Divine. 
This may seem quite an insignificant and personal thing to do, 
but as a child of this modern generation, which relies on hard 
facts and cold reason, and which lacks enthusiasm for things 
religious, I regard it as quite an achievement. This faith was 
restored in the only way a sceptic could have it restored, not 
by argument, but by the witness of an overwhelming experience. 
And it was a jungle sage, an unassuming hermit who had 
formerly lived for six years in a mountain cave, who promoted 
this vital change in my thinking. It is quite possible that he 
could not pass a matriculation examination, yet I am not 
ashamed to record in the closing chapters of this book my 
deep indebtedness to this man. The production of such sages 
provides India with sufficient credentials to warrant attention 
from intelligent Westerners. The secret India's spiritual life 
still exists, despite the storms of political agitation which now 
hide it, and I have tried to give authentic record of more than 
one adept who has attained a strength and serenity for which 
we lesser mortals wistfully yearn. 

I have borne witness in the book to other things also, things 
marvellous and weird. They seem incredible now, as I sit and 


type my narrative through the inked ribbon amid the matter-of- 
fact surroundings of English country-side; indeed, I wonder 
at my temerity in writing them down for a sceptical world to 
read. But I do not believe the present materialistic ideas which 
dominate the world will remain for all time; already one can 
perceive prophetic indications of a coming change of thought. 
Yet quite frankly I do not believe in miracles. Neither do most 
men of my generation. But I do believe that our knowledge of 
Nature's laws is incomplete, and that when the advance guard 
of scientists who are pushing forward into unexplored territory 
have found out a few more of those laws, we shall then be able 
to do things which are tantamount to miracles. 



THE geography master takes a long, tapering pointer and 
moves over to the large, varnished linen map which 
hangs before a half-bored class. He indicates a 
triangular red patch which juts down to the Equator, and then 
makes a further attempt to stimulate the obviously lagging 
interest of his pupils. He begins in a thin, drawling voice and 
with the air of one about to make a hierophantic revelation: 

"India has been called the brightest jewel in the British 
crown. .." 

At once a boy with moody brow, half wrapt in reverie, gives 
a sudden start and draws his far-flung imagination back into 
the stolid, brick-walled building which constitutes his school. 
The sound of this word INDIA falling on the tympanum 
of his ears, or the sight of it caught up by the optic nerve of his 
eyes from a printed page, carries thrilling and mysterious 
connotations of the unknown. Some inexplicable current of 
thought brings it repeatedly before him. 

When the mathematics master believes that this pupil is 
laboriously working at an algebraical problem, little does he 
know that the young rascal uses the school's desk for ulterior 
purposes. For under the cover of skilfully arrayed books he 
rapidly sketches turbaned heads, dusky faces and spice-laden 
ships being loaded from flat junks. 

The youthful years pass, but this interest in Hindustan 
remains undimmed. Nay, it spreads and embraces all Asia 
within its eager tentacles. 

Ever and anon he makes wild projects to go there. He 
will run away to sea. Surely it would then be a mere 
matter of enterprise to get some brief glimpse of India? 
Even when these projects come to nought, he talks rhetorically 
to his schoolmates until one of them falls an easy victim to his 
immature enthusiasm. 

Thereafter they conspire in silence and move in secret. 



They plan an adventurous tramp across the face of Europe; 
it is then to continue into Asia Minor and Arabia until the port 
of Aden is reached. The reader, contemplating the innocent 
boldness of that long walk, will smile. They believe that a 
friendly ship's captain could be approached at Aden. He 
would undoubtedly prove a kindly, sympathetic man. He 
would take them aboard his steamer and a week later they would 
begin to explore India. 

Preparations for this protracted excursion go on apace. 
Money is thriftily collected, and what they naively imagine to 
be an explorer's outfit is secretly brought together. Maps and 
guide-books are carefully consulted, the coloured pages and 
attractive photographs raising their wanderlust to fever heat. 
Finally they are able to fix the date when they intend to snap 
their fingers at destiny and leave the country. Who knows 
what lies around the corner? 

They might have saved some of their youthful energy and 
conserved some of their early optimism. For on an unfortunate 
day the second boy's guardian discovers the preparations, 
elicits further details of the affair, and comes down with a 
stern hand. What they suffer as a result is not to be related! 
The enterprise is reluctantly abandoned. 

The desire to view India never leaves the promoter of that 
unfortunate expedition. The dawn of manhood, however, 
brings bonds in the form of other interests and holds his feet 
with enchaining duties. That desire has to be put regretfully 
in the background. 

Time turns page after page of the calendar of years until he 
meets unexpectedly with a man who gives a temporary but vivid 
life to the old ambition. For the stranger's face is dusky, his 
head is turbaned, and he comes from the sun-steeped land of 


I fling out the fine net of remembrance to sweep the past 
years for pictures of that day when he steps into my life. The 
tide of autumn is fast ebbing, for the air is foggy and a bitter 
cold creeps through my clothing. Clammy fingers of depression 
strive hard to grip my failing heart. 

I wander into a brightly-lit cafe and seek the borrowed 
comfort of its warmth. A cup of hot tea - so potent at other 
times - fails to restore my serenity. I cannot banish the 
heavy atmosphere which surrounds me. Melancholy has 


determined to make me serve her dark ends. Black curtains 
cover the entrance to my heart. 

This restlessness is difficult to endure and it ends by driving 
me from the cafe into the open street. I walk without aim and 
follow old tracks until I find myself in front of a small book- 
shop which I know well. It is an ancient building and harbours 
equally ancient books. The proprietor 1 is a quaint man, a 
human relic surviving from an earlier century. This hustling 
epoch has little use for him, but he has just as little use for this 
epoch. He deals only in rare tomes and early editions, while 
specializing in curious and recondite subjects. He possesses 
a remarkable knowledge - so far as books can give it - of 
learning's bypaths and out-of-the-way matters. From time 
to time, I like to wander into the old shop and discuss them 
with him. 

I enter the place and greet him. For a while I finger the 
yellowed pages of calf-bound volumes or peer closely into 
faded folios. One ancient book engages my attention; it 
seems somewhat interesting and I examine it more carefully. 
The bespectacled bookseller notes my interest and, as is his 
wont, commences what he imagines to be an argument anent 
the book's subject - metempsychosis. 

The old man follows habit and keeps the discussion to his 
own side. He talks at length, appearing to know the pros and 
cons of that strange doctrine better than my author, while 
the classic authorities who have written about it are at his 
finger-tips. In this way I glean much curious information. 

Suddenly, I hear a man stirring at the far end of the shop 
and, turning, I behold a tall figure emerge from the shadows 
which hide a little inner room where the costlier books are 

The stranger is an Indian. He walks toward us with an 
aristocratic bearing and faces the bookseller. 

"My friend," he says quietly, "pardon me for intruding. 
I could not help overhearing you, while the subject you dis- 
cussed is of great interest to me. Now you quote the classical 
authors who first mention this idea of man's continual rebirth 
upon this earth. The deeper minds among those philosophic 
Greeks, wise Africans and early Christian Fathers understood 
this doctrine well, I agree. But where, do you think, did it 
really originate?" 

He pauses for a moment, but gives no time for a reply. 

1 Now, alas, he has departed from terra firma and his shop has 
disappeared with him! 


"Permit me to tell you," he continues, smiling. "You 
must look to India for the first acceptance of metempsychosis 
in the Old World. It was a cardinal tenet among the people 
of my land, even in remote antiquity." 

The speaker's face fascinates me. It is unusual; it would 
be distinguished-looking among a hundred Indians. Power 
kept in reserve - this is my reading of his character. Piercing 
eyes, a strong jaw and a lofty forehead make up the catalogue 
of his features. His skin is darker than that of the average 
Hindu. He wears a magnificent turban, the front of which is 
adorned with a sparkling jewel. For the rest, his clothes are 
European and finely tailored withal. 

His slightly didactic statement does not appeal to the old 
gentleman behind the counter; in fact, vigorous opposition 
is offered to it. 

"How can that be," comes the sceptical observation, 
"when the East Mediterranean cities were flourishing centres 
of culture and civilization in the pre-Christian era? Did not 
the greatest intellects of antiquity live in the area which 
embraced Athens and Alexandria? So, surely their ideas 
were carried Southward and Eastward until India was reached?" 

The Indian smiles tolerantly. 

"Not at all," is his immediate reply. "What really happened 
was quite the reverse of your assertion." 

"Indeed! You seriously suggest that the progressive 
West had to receive its philosophy from the laggard East? 
No, sir!" expostulates the bookseller. 

"Why not? Read your Apuleius again, my friend, and learn 
how Pythagoras came to India, where he was instructed by 
the Brahmins. Then notice how he began to teach the doctrine 
of metempsychosis after his return to Europe. This is but a 
single instance. I can find others. Your reference to the lag- 
gard East makes me smile. Thousands of years ago our sages 
were pondering over the deepest problems while your own 
countrymen were not even aware that such problems existed." 

He stops curtly, looks intently at us, and waits for his words 
to sink into our minds. I fancy the old bookseller is a little 
perplexed. Never before have I seen him so struck into 
silence or so obviously impressed by another man's intellectual 

I have listened quietly to the other customer's words and 
make no attempt to offer a remark. Now there arises a con- 
versational lull which all of us seem to recognize and to respect. 
Soon the Indian turns abruptly and retires to the inner room, 


only to emerge a couple of minutes later with a costly folio 
which he has selected from the shelves. He pays for the book 
and prepares to leave the shop. He reaches the door, whilst 
I stare wonderingly at his departing figure. 

Suddenly, he turns again and approaches me. He draws a 
wallet out of his pocket and selects a visiting card. 

"Would you care to pursue this conversation with me?" 
he asks, half smiling. I am taken by surprise, but gladly agree. 
He offers me the card, adding an invitation to dinner. 


I set out toward evening to find the stranger's house, a 
task not without its discomfort, for I am companioned by an 
unpleasant fog which has descended thickly upon the streets. 
An artist, I presume, would find a touch of romantic beauty 
in these fogs which sometimes brood over the town and dim 
its lights. My mind, however, is so intent upon the forth- 
coming meeting that I see no beauty and feel no unpleasantness 
in the surrounding atmosphere. 

A terminus is set to my travels by a massive gateway which 
suddenly looms up. Two large lamps, as in greeting, are held 
out by iron brackets. My entry into the house is followed by 
a delightful surprise. For the Indian has given no hint of this 
unique interior, upon which he has obviously lavished a fine 
taste and free purse. 

Let it suffice that I find myself in a great room, which might 
be part of some Asiatic palace for aught I know, so exotically 
is it furnished and so colourful are its gorgeous decorations. 
With the closing of the outer door I leave behind the grey, 
bleak Western world. The room has been decorated in a quaint 
combination of Indian and Chinese styles. Red, black and gold 
are the predominating colours. Resplendent tapestries, bearing 
sprawling Chinese dragons, stretch across the walls. Carved 
green dragon heads glare fiercely from all the corners, where 
they support brackets which carry costly pieces of handicraft. 
Two silken mandarin coats adorn both sides of the doorway. 
Boldly patterned Indian rugs repose on the parquet floor, 
one's shoes sinking delightfully into their thick pile. A 
gigantic tiger skin stretches its full length in front of the hearth. 

My eyes meet a small lacquered table which stands in one 
corner. Upon it rests a black ebony shrine with gilded folding 
doors. I glimpse the figure of some Indian god within the 


recess. It is probably a Buddha, for the face is calm and 
inscrutable and the two unwinking eyes gaze down at its nose. 

My host greets me cordially. He is impeccably dressed in 
a black dinner suit. Such a man would look distinguished in 
any company in the world, I reflect. A few minutes later we 
both sit down to dinner. Some delightful dishes are brought 
to the table, and it is here that I receive my initiation into the 
pleasures of curry, thus acquiring a taste which is never to 
leave me. The servant who attends on us provides a picturesque 
note, for he wears a white jacket and trousers, a golden sash 
and spotless turban. 

During the course of the meal our talk is superficial and 
general, yet whatever my host says, whatever subject he 
touches, his words invariably carry an air of finality. His 
statements are so phrased that they leave one with little ground 
for argument; his accents are so confident that his talk sounds 
like the last word upon the matter. I cannot help being 
impressed by his air of quiet assurance. 

Over the coffee cups he tells me a little about himself. I 
learn that he has travelled widely and that he possesses some 
means. He regales me with vivid impressions of China - 
where he has spent a year, of Japan - whose amazing future 
he tersely predicts, of America, Europe and - strangest of all 
- of life in a Christian monastery in Syria, where he had once 
spent a period of retirement. 

When we light our cigarettes he touches on the subject 
which was mentioned at the bookshop. But it is evident that 
he desires to talk of other things, for he soon leads the way to 
larger issues, and broaches the subject of India's ancient 

"Some of the doctrines of our sages have already reached 
the West," he remarks impressively, "but in most cases the 
real teachings have been misunderstood; in a few instances 
they have somehow been falsified. However, it is not for me 
to complain. What is India to-day? She is no longer 
representative of the lofty culture of her past. The greatness 
has gone out of her. It is sad, very sad. The masses hold 
on to a few ideals at the cost of being enmeshed in a fussy 
tangle of pseudo-religious fetters and unwise customs." 

"What is the cause of this degeneration?" I ask him. 

My host is silent. A minute slowly passes. I watch him 
while his eyes begin to narrow until they are half-closed; 
then he quietly breaks the silence. 

"Alas, my friend! Once there were great seers in my land, 


men who had penetrated the mysteries of life. Their advice 
was sought by king and commoner. Under their inspiration 
Indian civilization reached its zenith. To-day, where are they 
to be found? Two or three may remain - unknown, un- 
recorded and far from the main stream of modern life. When 
those great sages - Rishees, we call them - began to withdraw 
from society, then our own decline also began." 

His head droops till the chest must support his chin. A 
sorrowful note has entered his voice with the last sentence. 
For a while he seems withdrawn from me, his soul wrapped 
in melancholy meditation. 

His personality impresses me again as being provocatively 
interesting and decidedly attractive. Eyes, dark and flashing, 
reveal a keen mentality; voice, soft and sympathetic, reflects 
a kindly heart. I feel anew that I like him. 

The servant noiselessly enters the room and approaches the 
lacquered table. He lights a joss stick and a blue haze rises to 
the ceiling. The strange perfume of some Eastern incense 
spreads around the room. It is not unpleasant. 
Suddenly my host raises his head and looks at me. 
"Did I tell you that two or three still remain?" he asks 
queerly. "Ah, yes! I said that. Once I knew a great sage. 
It was a privilege about which I rarely speak to others now. 
He was my father, guide, master and friend. He possessed 
the wisdom of a god. I loved him as if I were really his own 
son. Whenever I stayed with him at fortunate intervals, I 
knew then that life at its heart is good. Such was the effect 
of his wonderful atmosphere. I, who have made art my hobby 
and beauty my ideal, learnt from him to see the divine beauty 
in men who were leprous, destitute or deformed; men from 
whom I formerly shrank in horror. He lived in a forest 
hermitage far from the towns. I stumbled upon his retreat 
seemingly by accident. From that day I paid him several 
visits, staying with him as long as I could. He taught me much. 
Yes - such a man could give greatness to any country." 

"Then why did he not enter public life and serve India?" 
I question frankly. 
The Indian shakes his head. 

"It is difficult enough for us to understand the motives of 
such an unusual man. It would be doubly difficult for you, 
a Westerner, to understand him. His answer might probably 
be that service can be rendered in secret through the telepathic 
power of the mind; that influence can be exerted from a 
distance in an unseen yet no less potent manner. He might 


also say that a degenerate society must suffer its destiny until 
the fated hour of relief strikes." 

I confess to being puzzled by this answer. 

"Quite so, my friend, I expected that," observes the other. 


After that memorable evening I visit the Indian's home 
many times, drawn by the lure of his unusual knowledge as 
much as by the attractiveness of his exotic personality. He 
touches some coiled spring among my ambitions and releases 
into urgency the desire to fathom life's meaning. He stimulates 
me, less to satisfy intellectual curiosity than to win a worth- 
while happiness. 

One evening our conversation takes a turn which is destined 
to have important results for me. He describes on occasions 
the queer customs and peculiar traditions of his countrymen; 
sometimes he portrays in words a few of the types who people 
his amazing land. He drops a remark this evening anent a 
strange type, the Yogi. I possess but a vague and incoherent 
idea of what the term really means. It has come to my notice 
a few times during the course of my reading, but on each 
occasion the terms of reference differ so much from the others 
that confusion is the natural result. So, when I hear my friend 
use the word I stop him short and beg for further information. 

"That I shall do with pleasure," he answers, "but I can 
hardly tell you, in a single definition, what constitutes a Yogi. 
No doubt, a dozen of my countrymen will define the word in 
a dozen different ways. For instance, there are thousands of 
wandering beggars who pass by this name. They swarm 
through the villages and attend the periodic religious fairs in 
droves. Many are only lazy tramps and others vicious ones, 
while most are totally illiterate men, unaware of the history 
and doctrines of the science of Yoga, under whose shelter 
they masquerade." 

He pauses to flick the ash off his cigarette. 

"Go, however, to some place like Rishikesh, over which the 
mighty Himalayas keep eternal guard. There you will find a 
totally different class of men. They live in humble huts or 
caves, eat little food and constantly pray to God. Religion is 
their breath; it occupies their minds day and night. They 
are mostly good men studying our sacred books and chanting 
prayers. Yet they, too, are called Yogis. But what have 


they in common with the beggars who prey on the ignorant 
masses? You see how elastic the term is! Between these 
two classes there are others who partake of the nature of both." 

"And yet there seems to be much made of the mysterious 
powers possessed by Yogis," I remark. 

"Ah! now you must listen to a further definition," he 
laughs back at m e . " There are strange individuals in solitary 
retreats far from the big cities, in the seclusion of lonely 
jungles or mountain caves, men who devote their entire 
existence to practices which they believe will bring marvellous 
powers. Some of these men will eschew all mention of religion 
and scorn it; others, however, are highly religious; but all of 
them unite in the struggle to wrest from Nature a mastery over 
forces invisible and intangible. You see, India has never 
been without her traditions of the mysterious, the occult, and 
many are the stories told of those adepts who could perform 
miraculous feats. Now these men, too, are called Yogis." 

"Have you met such men? Do you believe these tradi- 
tions?" I ask innocently. 

The other man is silent. He seems to be ruminating over 
the form in which to couch his reply. 

My eyes turn to the shrine which stands upon the lacquered 
table. I fancy, in the soft light which fills our room, that the 
Buddha is smiling benignantly at me from its lotus throne of 
gilt wood. For half a minute I am ready to believe that there 
is something uncanny in its atmosphere; and then the Indian's 
clear voice breaks into my thoughts and arrests my wandering 

"Look!" he says quietly, holding something out for my 
inspection. He has loosed it from under his collar. "I am a 
Brahmin. This is my sacred thread. Thousands of years of 
strict segregation have made certain qualities of character 
instinctive in my caste. Western education and Western 
travelling can never remove them. Faith in a higher power, 
belief in the existence of supernatural forces, recognition of a 
spiritual evolution among men - these things were born in 
me as a Brahmin. I could not destroy them if I would, while 
reason is overpowered by them whenever the issue comes to 
battle. So, although I am quite in sympathy with the principles 
and methods of your modern sciences, what other answer 
can I give you, except this - I believe!" 

He looks intently at me for a few moments. Then he 

"Yes, I have met such men. Once, twice, three times. 


They are difficult to come across. Once they were easier to 
find, I believe, but to-day they have almost disappeared." 

"But they still exist, I presume?" 

"Most likely, my friend. To find them is another matter. 
It would require a protracted search." 

"Your master - was he one of them?" 

"No, he belonged to a higher order. Did I not tell you that 
he was a Rishee?" 

The term needs some elucidation before my mind can digest 
it. I tell him so. 

"Higher than the Yogis stand the Rishees," he answers. 
"Transfer the Darwinian theory to the realm of human 
character; accept the Brahmin teaching that there is a 
spiritual evolution running parallel with the physical one; 
look upon the Rishees as men who have attained the crest 
of this upward climb; then you may form some rough 
conception of their greatness." 

"Does a Rishee also perform those wonders of which we 

"Yes, he certainly does, but he will not value them for their 
own sake, whereas many of the Yogi wonder-workers do. 
Such powers arise in him naturally by reason of his great 
development of will and mental concentration. They are not 
his chief concern; he may even disdain them and use them 
little. You see, his first purpose is to become inwardly some- 
thing akin to those divine beings of whom Buddha in the East 
and Christ in the West are the most illustrious examples." 

"But Christ worked miracles!" 

"He did. But do you think he performed them for any 
vain self-glory? Not so; he desired to help the souls of 
ordinary people by thus catching their faith." 

"Surely, if such men as Rishees existed in India, multitudes 
would flock after them?" I conjecture. 

"Undoubtedly - but they would first have to appear in 
public and announce themselves for what they are. Only in 
the most exceptional cases have Rishees ever been known to 
do that. They prefer to live apart from the world. Those 
who wish to perform a public work may emerge for a limited 
time and then disappear again." 

I object that such men could hardly be of much service to 
their fellows if they hide themselves in inaccessible places. 

The Indian smiles tolerantly. 

"That is a matter which comes within the province of 
your Western saying: 'Appearances are sometimes deceptive.' 


Without intimate knowledge of these persons, the world is 
not in a position to judge them accurately, if you will pardon 
my saying so. I have mentioned that the Rishees did some- 
times live for a while in towns and move in society. In olden 
times, when that was a little more frequent, their wisdom, 
power and attainment became obvious to the public; their 
influence was then openly acknowledged. Even Maharajahs 
did not disdain to pay reverent homage to those great sages 
and to consult them for guidance in their policies. But as a 
matter of fact, it is certain that the Rishees prefer to exert 
their influence in a silent and unknown manner." 

"Well, I would like to meet such men," I mutter, half to 
myself. "And I should certainly like to encounter some real 

"You shall do so one day, without a doubt," he assures me. 

"How do you know that? " I ask, somewhat startled. 

"I knew it that day we first met," is the astonishing answer. 
"It came to me as an intuition - does it matter what you call 
it? - as a message deeply felt but inexplicable by outward 
evidences. My master taught me how to train this feeling, 
to develop it. Now, I have learnt to trust it implicitly." 

"A modern Socrates guided by his daemon!" I remark 
half-jocosely. "But tell me, when do you think your prophecy 
will come true?" 

He shrugs his shoulders. 

"I am not a prophet. So I regret that I cannot date the 
event for you." 

I do not press him, though I suspect he could say more if 
he would. I meditate upon the matter and then offer a 

"I suppose you will return to your own country eventually. 
If I am ready at the time, could we not travel together? Would 
you not help me locate some of these men we have been dis- 

"No, my friend. Go alone. It will be better that you do 
your own finding." 

"It will be so difficult for a stranger," I complain. 

"Yes - very difficult. But go alone; one day you will see 
that I am right." 


From that time I feel strongly that a momentous day will 
dawn which will find me at anchor in the sunny East. I reflect 


that if India has harboured such great men as the Rishees in the 
past, and if, as my friend believes, there may be a few of them 
still in existence, then the trouble of locating them might be 
balanced by the reward of learning something of their wisdom. 
Peradventure, I might then gain an understanding and content 
which life has so far denied me. Even if I fail in such a quest, 
the journey will not be a vain one. For those queer men, the 
Yogis, with their magic, their mysterious practices and their 
strange mode of living, excite my curiosity and arouse my 
interest. The journalistic grindstone has sharpened to an 
abnormal keenness my concern with the unusual. I am fascin- 
ated by the prospect of exploring such little-known trails. I 
decide to carry out my fancy to its full proportions and, when 
opportunity allows, take the first boat to India. 

My dark-skinned friend, who has thus clinched and rendered 
final this determination to trek towards the rising sun, con- 
tinues to receive me at his house for several months. He assists 
me to take my bearings upon the swirling ocean of life, though 
he always refuses to act as a pilot across the uncharted waters 
which stretch ahead of me. To discover one's position, to be 
made aware of latent possibilities, and to get one's vague ideas 
clarified, is nevertheless of indubitable value to a young man. 
It is not amiss, then, if I pay my meed of gratitude to that early 
benefactor of mine. For a dark day comes when fate spins its 
wheel once again, and we part. Within a few years I hear, 
seemingly by accident, of his death. 

Time and circumstance are not ready for my journey. 
Ambition and desire lure a man into responsibilities from which 
it is not easy to extricate himself. I can do little more than 
resign myself to the life which hems me in, and watch and wait. 

I never lose my faith in the Indian's prophecy. One day it 
is strengthened by an unexpected confirmation. 

Professional work throws me for several months into frequent 
contact with a man for whom I entertain a high respect and 
friendly regard. He is exceedingly astute and knows human 
nature through every letter of its alphabet. Many years earlier 
he held the post of Professor of Psychology at one of our 
universities, but an academic life was not to his taste. He 
deserted it for pastures where he could put his amazing range 
of knowledge to more practical use. For a time he acted as 
adviser to magnates of the business world. How often has he 
boasted of drawing several retaining fees from the chiefs of 
large firms ! 

He is born with the remarkable gift of inspiring others to 


their best endeavours. Every person he meets - from office 
boy to millionaire magnate - finds practical help and new 
enthusiasm from the contact; sometimes they receive golden 
advice. I make it a practice to take careful note of any counsel 
he gives me, for his foresight and insight usually receive 
startling verification in both business and personal matters. 
I enjoy his company because he has succeeded in fusing the 
elements of introspection and extrospection in his own nature, 
with the result that he can talk profound philosophy one minute 
and deal with a commercial report the next. Withal he is 
never dull, always witty and radiating good-humour. 

He admits me into the circle of intimate friendship and, 
sometimes, we spend several hours at a time in mingled work 
and pleasure. I never tire of listening to his talk, for its 
latitude of subject enthrals me. I wonder often that one small 
head can carry all he knows! 

One night we go out to dine together in a little Bohemian 
restaurant where pleasantly shaded lights and nicely cooked 
food accompany each other. After the meal we find a full 
moon resplendent in the heavens, and tempted by the witchery 
of its poetic light, decide to walk homewards. 

The conversation has been somewhat light and frivolous for 
most of the evening, but as we walk on through the city's 
quieter streets, it drifts into philosophical depths. The close 
of our nocturnal peregrination finds us discussing subjects so 
abstruse that some of my companion's clients would take fright 
at the mere sound of the names. Outside his door, he turns 
and proffers a hand in farewell. As he grips mine, he suddenly 
addresses me in grave tones and says slowly: 

"You ought never to have entered this profession. You are 
really a philosopher caught up in the ink-slinging business of 
writing. Why did you not become a university don and spend 
your life in secluded research? For you like to put on those 
carpet slippers of yours and walk around inside your brain. 
You are trying to reach the very source of the mind. One day 
you will go out to the Yogis of India, to the Lamas of Tibet and 
the Zen monks of Japan. Then you will write some strange 
records. Good night!" 

"What do you think of these Yogis?" 

The other man bends his head towards mine and half- 
whispers in my ear: 

"My friend, they know, they know! " 

I walk away greatly puzzled. This Eastern journey is not 
likely to happen for a long time ahead. I am sinking deeper and 


deeper into a maze of activities from which escape becomes 
proportionately more difficult. For a while pessimism seizes 
me. Am I not doomed by destiny to remain imprisoned in this 
maze of private bonds and personal ambitions? 

Yet my guess at the unseen writ is wrong. Fate issues its 
orders every day, and though we are not literate enough to be 
able to read them, nevertheless we unconsciously move about 
to obey ! Before twelve months pass I find myself disembarking 
at Alexandra Dock, Bombay; mingling with the motley life of 
that Eastern city, and listening to the weird medley of Asiatic 
tongues which contribute to its cacophony! 



IT is a singular fact - and perhaps a significant one - that 
before I can begin to try my luck in this strange quest, 
fortune herself comes in quest of me. I have not even 
taken the tourist's privilege of exploring the show places of 
Bombay. All I know of the city can be comfortably written 
down on a postcard. My trunks, save one, remain in a sedate, 
unpacked condition. My sole activity consists in an attempt 
to familiarize myself with my surroundings in the Hotel 
Majestic, which a shipboard acquaintance had described as 
one of the most comfortable hotels in the city. It is through 
this activity, then, that I make a startling discovery. For, 
staying as a fellow guest of the hotel, I find a member of the 
magician's fraternity, a weaver of strange spells, in short, a 
wonder-worker in the flesh! 

Not that he is one of those juggling fellows, mind you, who 
make their own and theatres' fortunes by bewildering jaded 
audiences. He is not some clever individual attempting to 
emulate the feats of Maskelyne and Devant in a less prosaic 
environment than that of Regent Street. No! This man 
belongs to the line of medieval sorcerers. He engages daily in 
commerce with mysterious beings, invisible to normal human 
eyes, but plain enough to his own! Such, at least, is the 
peculiar reputation which he has created. The hotel staff 
regard him with fearful looks and speak of him with bated 
breath. Whenever he passes by, the other guests instinctively 
break off conversation and a puzzled, questioning look comes 
into their eyes. He makes no overtures to them and usually 
insists on dining alone. 

What makes him more intriguing in our eyes is that he 
bears neither European nor Indian nationality; he is a traveller 
from the country of the Nile; in very sooth, a magician out 
of Egypt! 

It is not easy for me to reconcile the appearance of Mahmoud 



Bey with the sinister powers with which he has been credited. 
Instead of the stern visage and lean body which I look for, I 
observe a good-looking smiling face, a well-built figure with 
massive shoulders and the quick walk of a man of action. 
Instead of the white robe or voluminous cloak, he is sprucely 
dressed in well-fitting, modern clothes. He looks like a hand- 
some Frenchman, such as one might see any evening in the 
better restaurants of Paris. 

I ruminate upon the matter for the rest of the day. Next 
morning, I wake up with a clear-cut decision. Mahmoud Bey 
must be forthwith interviewed. I shall "get his story," as 
my fellow scribes of the Press might say. 

I write a few lines, expressive of my desire, on the back of a 
visiting card and then, in the right-hand corner, I draw in 
tiny characters a certain symbol which will indicate that I am 
not unfamiliar with the traditional side of his mysterious art 
and which, I hope, may help me to obtain an interview. I 
slip the card into the hand of a soft-footed servant, add a 
silver rupee, and send him up to the magician's room. 

Five minutes later the response arrives: "Mahmoud Bey 
will see you at once, sir. He is just about to take breakfast 
and invites you to join him." 

This first success encourages me. The servant leads the 
way upstairs and I find Mahmoud Bey seated at a table 
whereon there is tea and toast and jam. The Egyptian does 
not rise to greet me. Instead, he points to a chair opposite 
him and says, in a firm, resonant voice: 

"Please be seated. Excuse me, but I never shake hands." 

He wears a loose grey dressing-gown. There is a leonine 
mane of brown hair on his head. A curling lock strays over 
his forehead. His teeth flash white in a charming smile as 
he asks: 

"You will share my breakfast, eh?" 

I thank him. Over the cups I inform him of the awe- 
inspired reputation which belongs to him in the hotel, and of 
the prolonged meditation in which I have indulged before 
having the temerity to approach him. He laughs heartily and 
half raises a hand into the air, as a gesture of helplessness, but 
says nothing. 

After a pause, he asks: "Are you representing any paper?" 

"No. I have come to India on a private mission - to 
study some out-of-the-way things, and possibly make a few 
notes for literary work." 

"Will you stay here long?" 


"That depends on circumstances. I have fixed no period," 
I answer, with a queer feeling that the affair is becoming a 
case of the interviewer interviewed. But his next words 
reassure me: 

" I , too, am here on an extended visit. Possibly one year, 
possibly two years. After that, I am off for the Far East. I 
would like to see the world and then return home to Egypt, 
if Allah permits." 

The servant enters and clears the table after we have finished. 
I feel that it is time to plunge into deeper water. 

"Is it true that you possess these magical powers?" I 
question him, pointedly. 

Calmly and confidently, he says: "Yes! Allah, the All- 
Powerful, has granted me such powers." 
I hesitate. His dark grey eyes gaze fixedly at me. 
"You would like me to demonstrate them, I believe?" 
he asks, suddenly. 

He has correctly gauged my desire. I nod assent. 
" Very well. Have you a pencil and some paper?" 
I hastily feel in a pocket for my notebook, tear out a page, 
and then produce a pencil. 

"Good," he remarks. "Now please write some question 
on the paper." With that he withdraws and sits at a small 
table in the window recess. He half turns his back upon me 
and looks down into the street below. Several feet of space 
now separate us. 

"What kind of question?" I query. 
"Anything you wish," he replies promptly. 
My brain plays with a few thoughts. Finally, I write down 
a brief question. It is: "Where did I live four years ago?" 
"Now fold the paper repeatedly until it forms a tiny square," 
he instructs me. "Let it be the smallest possible fold." 

I obey him. Thereupon he draws his chair back to my table 
and faces me once again. 

"Please clench the piece of paper, together with the pencil, 
in the palm of your right hand." 

I hold the articles tightly clutched. The Egyptian closes 
his eyes. He appears to fall into a profound concentration. 
Then the heavy lids open once more, the grey eyes look 
steadily at me, and he quietly says: 

"The question which you asked - was it not, 'Where did 
I live four years ago?' " 

"You are correct," I reply, astonished. This is a case of 
mind reading extraordinary! 


"Now, please unfold the piece of paper in your hand," his 
voice breaks in. 

I place the tiny scrap upon the surface of the table and 
slowly open out its many folds until the paper lies flat, extended 
to its original size. 

"Examine it ! " commands the other man. I do so and make 
a surprising discovery. For some unseen hand has written in 
pencil the name of the town where I lived four years ago. The 
answer has been placed immediately beneath the written 

Mahmoud Bey smiles triumphantly. 

"There is the answer. Is it correct?" he demands. 

I give a wondering assent, for I am baffled. The feat hardly 
seems credible. As a test, I ask him to repeat it. He readily 
agrees and moves away to the window while I write down a 
further question. Thus he avoids any possible accusation of 
being close enough to read my writing. Besides, I watch him 
carefully and note that his eyes are set upon the colourful scene 
in the street below. 

Once again I fold the paper and clutch it tightly against the 
pencil which is in my hand. He returns to the table and 
plunges again into close concentration, his eyes fast shut. 
Then come the words : 

"Your second question - 'What journal did I edit two years 
ago?' " 

He has given my query quite accurately. Thought-reading 
again, I presume. 

Once more he requests me to unfold the tiny scrap in my 
right hand. I place it flat on the table and it reveals to my 
astounded gaze the name of the journal in question, clumsily 
written in pencil! 

Conjuring? I dismiss the suggestion as absurd. The paper 
and pencil were supplied from my own pockets, the questions 
were unpremeditated, while Mahmoud Bey has scrupulously 
put several feet between us at each writing. Moreover, the 
entire feat has been performed in the morning daylight. 

Hypnotism? I have studied the subject and know well 
when any attempt at undue influence is being made. I know 
equally how to guard against it. And the mysteriously added 
words still remain on the paper. 1 

1 The scrap of paper remained in my possession for several 
months, and the writing did not disappear during the whole of that 
time. I showed it to two or three persons who readily identified the 
added answers. It is therefore evident that the experience had not 
been a hallucination. 


I am baffled again. For a third time I request the Egyptian 
to repeat the experiment, and he agrees to a final test. From 
this, too, he emerges completely successful. 

The facts cannot be gainsaid. He has read my mind (as 
I believe); he has somehow, by some inexplicable magic, 
caused certain words to be written by an invisible hand upon a 
piece of paper which I clutch tightly in my hand; and, finally, 
those words form correct replies to my question. 

What is the strange process he uses? 

As I ponder over the matter, I feel the presence of uncanny 
forces. To the normal mind, the thing is incredible. It is 
something alien and apart from sane existence. My heart 
almost stands still with a sense of eeriness. 

"Have you men in England who can do this?" he asks, 
half boastfully. 

I am compelled to admit that I know of none who can 
perform the feat under similar test conditions, though several 
professional conjurers can doubtless perform it if allowed to 
use their own paraphernalia. 

"Would you care to explain your methods?" I inquire 
weakly, fearing that in asking him to reveal his secrets I am 
asking for the moon. 

He shrugs his broad shoulders. 

"I have been offered large sums of money to give my 
secrets away, but I do not intend to do so yet." 

"You are aware that I am not entirely ignorant of the 
psychic side of things?" I venture. 

"Assuredly. If I ever come to Europe - which is quite 
possible - you may be able to render certain services to me. 
In that case, I promise to train you in my methods so that you 
could do the same things, if you wish." 

"How long does the training last?" 

"That would differ with different persons. If you 
worked hard and gave the whole of your time to it, 
three months would be enough to get an understanding 
of the methods, but after that years of practice may be 

"Can you not explain the broad basis of your feats, the 
theoretical side alone, without explaining your secrets?" I 

Mahmoud Bey muses over my query for a while. 

"Yes, I am willing to do that for you," he answers softly. 

I feel for my shorthand book, draw it out of a pocket, and 
poise the pencil in readiness to take notes. 


"No, please. Not this morning," he protests, smiling. 
"I am busy; you must excuse me now. Come here to-morrow 
at one hour before noon, and we shall continue our talk." 


Precisely at the appointed time I sit again in Mahmoud 
Bey's room. He pushes a box of Egyptian cigarettes over the 
table towards me. I pick one out and, as he proffers the light, 
he remarks: 

"These come from my native country. They are good." 

We lean back in our chairs, puffing a few preliminary whiffs. 
The smoke is fragrant, aromatic; certainly these cigarettes 
are excellent indeed. 

"So I must now describe my theories, as your English 
friends would call them; to me they are certainties." Mah- 
moud Bey laughs good-naturedly. " Perhaps you will be 
surprised to hear that I am a man expert in scientific agriculture 
and that I hold diplomas in the subject? " he adds irrelevantly. 

I begin to scribble a note. 

"That does not seem to fit in with my - shall we say, 
interest in magic, I know," he continues. I look up at him and 
notice a smile hovering around his lips. He gazes back at me. 
There is a good "story" in this man, I reflect. 

"But you are ajournalist; probably you would like to know 
how I became a magician, eh?" he queries. 

I express an eager assent. 

"Good ! I was born in an interior province, but brought up 
in Cairo. Let me tell you that I was just a normal boy, with 
the usual interests which schoolboys possess. I was very keen 
on making agriculture my profession, so I attended the Govern- 
ment Agricultural College for that purpose. I worked hard at 
my studies and went on with them most enthusiastically. 

"One day an old man took an apartment in the house 
where I lived. He was a Jew, with bushy eyebrows and a long 
grey beard, and his face was always grave and serious. He 
seemed to be living in the past century, for he wore very old- 
fashioned clothes. His manner was so reserved that the other 
inhabitants of the house were kept at a distance. Strangely 
enough, instead of having the same effect upon me, this 
mysterious reserve piqued my interest. Being young, self- 
assertive and utterly without a trace of shyness, I persistently 
strove to make his acquaintance. At first he rebuffed me, but 


that only added fuel to the fire of my curiosity. Eventually, 
he gave way to my constant attempts to engage him in con- 
versation. He opened his doors to me and permitted me to 
enter his life. Thus I came to learn that he spent much of his 
time in strange studies and weird practices. In short, he 
confessed to me that he was making researches into the super- 
natural side of things. 

"Imagine it! Hitherto my life had run along the even 
channel of youthful study and healthy sport. Now, I was 
forced abruptly face to face with a totally different kind of 
existence. And it appealed to me. The thought of the super- 
natural did not frighten me, as no doubt it would have done 
other boys. Really, it thrilled me because I saw the possi- 
bilities of great adventures opening up through it. I begged 
the old Jew to teach me something about the subject, and he 
yielded to my desire. In this way I was brought into a new 
circle of interests and friends. The Jew took me with him to 
a society in Cairo which conducted practical investigations, 
into magic, spiritualism, theosophy and the occult. He often 
delivered lectures to them. The group was composed of 
society people, learned savants, Government officials and other 
persons of good standing. 

"Although I had only just reached manhood, I was permitted 
to accompany the old man to every meeting of the society. On 
each occasion I listened eagerly; my ears drank in every word 
of the talk around me ; my eyes watched with keen fascination 
the strange experiments which were so often made. Of course, 
it was inevitable that my technical studies in agriculture were 
neglected, so that more time could be given to the researches 
into supernatural matters. However, I had a natural genius 
for the former studies and scraped through my diploma 
examinations without difficulty. 

"I studied the musty old books which the Jew lent me, and 
practised the magical rituals and other exercises which he 
taught me. I made such quick progress that I began to 
discover things which he himself did not know. At length, I 
became acknowledged as an expert in these arts. I delivered 
lectures and gave demonstrations to the Cairo Society, until its 
members appointed me as its President. For twelve years I 
remained its leader. Then I resigned, because I wanted to 
leave Egypt and travel to certain countries - and, incidentally, to 
acquire a fortune!" 

Mahmoud Bey stops speaking; his carefully manicured fingers, 
which I have not failed to observe, flick the ash from his cigarette. 


"A difficult task!" 

He smiles. "For me it will be easy. I need only a few 
clients among the super-rich who wish to make use of my 
magical powers. Already I am known to certain wealthy 
Parsees and rich Hindus. They come here to consult me 
about their problems or troubles, or they wish to discover 
certain things which elude them, or they want information 
which is only to be procured by occult means. I charge them 
high fees, naturally. One hundred rupees is my minimum. 
Frankly, I want to make a lot of money and then throw the 
whole thing up and retire to some quiet interior province in 
Egypt. I will buy a large orange-grove plantation and take up 
my agricultural work once again." 

"Did you come here direct from Egypt " 

"No - I spent some time in Syria and Palestine, after leaving 
Cairo. The Syrian police officers heard of my powers and 
occasionally asked me to help them. Whenever they were 
puzzled by some crime, they used my services as a last resource. 
Almost always I succeeded in finding the criminal for them." 

"How were you able to do that?" 

"The inner secrets of the crimes were revealed to me by my 
attendant spirits, who created a vision of the scenes before my 

Mahmoud Bey relapses for a minute into reminiscent 
thought. I wait patiently for his next words. 

"Yes, I suppose you could call me a practising Spiritualist 
of a sort, since I do invoke the aid of spirits," he goes on. 
"But I am also what you call a magician in the real sense - not 
a conjurer - as well as a thought reader. I do not claim to be 
anything more than this." 

His claim is sufficiently startling to require no further 

"Please tell me something about your invisible employees," 
I ask him. 

"The spirits? Well, it took me three years of difficult 
practice to get my present control of them. You see, in the 
other world which exists outside our material senses, there are 
bad as well as good spirits. I try to use good spirits only. 
Some of them are human beings who have passed through 
what the world calls death, but most of my attendants are jinns 
- that is, native inhabitants of the spirit world who have never 
possessed a human body. Some of them are just like animals, 
others are as shrewd as men. There are also evil jinns - we call 
them jinns in Egypt and I do not know any suitable English 


word for them - who are used by low sorcerers, especially by 
the African witch doctors. I refuse to have anything to do with 
them. They are dangerous servants and will sometimes turn 
treacherously on the man who is using them and kill him." 

" Who are these human spirits you employ?" 

"I can tell you that one of them is my own brother. He 
'died' some years ago. But remember - I am not a Spiritualist 
medium, for no spirit ever enters my body or is allowed to 
control me in any way. My brother communicates with me by 
impressing upon my mind whatever thought he wishes, or by 
bringing a picture-vision before my mind's eye. That is how 
I knew the questions you wrote down yesterday." 

"And the jinns?" 

"I have as many as thirty at my command. Even after 
obtaining mastery over them, I had to train them how to do my 
bidding, just as you train children to dance. I have to know 
the name of each one, because you cannot bring or use them 
without knowing their names. Some of these names I learned 
from the musty old books which the Jew lent me." 

Mahmoud Bey pushes the cigarette-box towards me again, 
and then continues: 

"I have given each spirit a particular duty; each one is 
trained to do a separate work. Thus, the jinns who produced 
the pencil-written words on your piece of paper yesterday 
would be quite unable to help me discover the nature of your 

"How do you get into contact with these spirits?" is my 
next query. 

"I can call them to me very quickly merely by concentrating 
in thought upon them, but in practice I usually write down in 
Arabic the name of the spirit required; that is sufficient to 
bring it to me almost at once." 

The Egyptian looks at his watch. He rises and says: 

"And now, my friend, I regret to say that I cannot give you 
any further explanation of my methods. Perhaps you will now 
understand why I must keep them secret. We may meet again 
one day, if Allah wills. Good-bye." 

He flashes his teeth in a smile as he bows. The interview is 
at an end. 


Night in Bombay. I go to bed late, but not to sleep. The 
heavy air suffocates me; it seems to contain no oxygen; and 


its heat is intolerable. The whirring blades of an electric fan 
which hangs from the ceiling bring little relief, certainly not 
sufficient to induce my weary eyes to close. I find that the 
simple act of breathing is a distinct labour. The air is hot 
enough to hurt my inexperienced lungs with every dilation. 
My wretched body becomes flaccid and drips a continuous 
stream of perspiration which my pyjamas soak up. Worse, my 
oppressed brain finds no rest. The devil of insomnia enters 
my life this night and is destined to haunt me until the day when 
my shoes tread Indian soil for the last time. I have begun to 
pay the inevitable price of acclimatization to the tropical world. 

A mosquito net hangs around my bed like a white shroud. 
Through a tall window which opens on the veranda balcony 
the moonlight comes streaming and casts eerie shadows on the 
pale ceiling. 

Musing over the morning's talk with Mahmoud Bey and the 
astounding phenomena of the previous day, I seek for some 
explanation other than that he has given me, but can find none. 
If those thirty or more mysterious servitors of his really exist, 
then one is back in the medieval period when - assuming legend 
does not always lie - magicians flourished in every city of Europe, 
though often hindered in their dark work by Church and State. 

The more I seek for an explanation, the more I retreat 

Why had Mahmoud Bey instructed me to hold the pencil 
simultaneously with the piece of paper? Did his alleged spirits 
draw some constituent atoms from the lead to enable them to 
write the answers? 

I cast about in memory for instances of similar feats. Does 
not the famous Venetian voyager, Marco Polo, relate somewhere 
in his book of travel how he came across certain magicians in 
China, Tartary and Tibet and how they were able to perform 
pencil writing without contact? And did not those wizards 
inform him that this weird art was known and practised among 
their people since centuries before? 

I remember, too, that Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, the enig- 
matic Russian lady who founded the Theosophical Society, 
produced somewhat parallel phenomena fifty years ago. 
Certain favoured members of her society received somewhat 
lengthy messages through her agency. They propounded 
philosophical questions and the replies were scrawled - 
precipitated, she called it - upon the actual letter paper bearing 
the questions! It is curious that Mme Blavatsky claimed 
intimate acquaintance with both Tartary and Tibet, the very 


lands where Marco Polo met with the same phenomena. Yet 
Mme Blavatsky did not claim to control any mysterious 
spirits, as Mahmoud Bey had done. Her assertion was that the 
mysterious writings emanated from her Tibetan masters, who 
lived in the flesh and lurked unseen as the inspirers of her 
society. Apparently they were better hands at the feat than 
the Egyptian, for they produced such writings hundreds of 
miles away from Tibet. There had been much dispute at the 
time whether the Russian lady's phenomena were really 
genuine, and whether her Tibetan teachers really existed. 
But that is not my concern, for that brilliant woman has long 
since gone to the other world in which she seemed so much at 
home while yet here. I know my own experience and what 
I have witnessed with my own eyes. I must accept the genuine- 
ness of the performance, even if I reserve its explanation. 

Yes, Mahmoud Bey is a magician, a twentieth-century wizard. 
My discovery of him so soon after landing on Indian earth 
seems to be a herald, apt and prophetic, of even stranger 
discoveries yet. Metaphorically, I have cut the first notch in 
my stick of Indian experience. Actually, I have put down the 
first note on the virgin white sheets of my note-book. 



"I AM pleased to see you" is the somewhat conventional 

greeting with which I am received by Meher Baba. He 
is destined, had I but known it, to flash like a meteorite 
across the Western sky and to rouse the curiosity of millions of 
people in Europe and America. Moreover, like a meteorite, he 
will fall ingloriously to earth. I am the first Western journalist 
to interview him, for I track him down to his Indian abode 
when he is almost unknown to more than local fame. 

I have become acquainted with one of his chief disciples, 
and, after some correspondence, wonder what manner of man 
has joined the ranks of self-appointed deliverers of mankind. 
Two Parsee disciples come to Bombay to escort me. Before we 
leave the city, they inform me that it is necessary to make a 
present of choice flowers and fruits to their master. So we 
proceed to the bazaar and they collect a large hamper of these 
commodities on my behalf. 

Our train arrives at Ahmednagar next morning, after travel- 
ling through the night. I remember it as the historical place 
where the cruel Emperor Aurungzeeb, Preserver of the Faith 
and Ornament of the Moghul Throne, stroked his heavy beard 
for the last time, for Death caught him here in his tent. 

A rackety old war-time Ford car, which does duty for the 
transport needs of Meher Baba's retreat, waits for us at the 
station. The seven-mile run which follows takes us through 
flat country. An avenue of neem trees lines part of the road. 
We pass a village whose huddled brown roofs rise against the 
elaborate little spire of the local temple. Then I sight a stream, 
whose banks are lined with pink and yellow flowers, and in 
whose muddy water buffaloes are blissfully resting. 

We arrive at Meher Baba's curious colony, which is spread 
out in scattered erections. Three odd- looking stone structures, 
which I learn later are the remnants of a dismantled army camp 
site, stand in a field. Three plain wooden bungalows stand in 



an adjacent one. A quarter of a mile away is a little village whose 
name is given as Arangaon. The whole place presents a bare 
appearance and seems half deserted. My Parsee escorts are at 
pains to inform me that this is only the country headquarters of 
their master, and that his principal centre is near the town of 
Nasik, where the majority of his intimate disciples reside and 
where visitors are usually received. 

A few men emerge from one of the bungalows as we pass. 
They lounge on the veranda, smile, gesticulate, and seem 
pleased at the arrival of a European in their midst. We cross 
a field and reach a queer-looking structure, which is nothing 
less than an artificial cave. It is built of stones and rubble 
cemented together and is about eight feet deep. It faces due 
south and receives the bright morning sunlight full into its 
interior. I look around and see the rolling expanse of fields, 
the ring of hills which bounds the horizon on the east, and the 
tree-shaded village down in a hollow. This Parsee holy man 
is doubtless a great lover of Nature, for he has set his retreat 
in a scene of aloof, untroubled peace. I am, indeed, glad to 
find such a quiet backwater after the whirl of Bombay life. 

Two men stand on guard like sentries outside the cave's 
entrance. They move at our approach and go inside to consult 
their master. "Put out your cigarette," whispers one of my 
escorts, "Baba does not like smoking." I throw the offending 
cigarette away. A minute later I an: conducted into the august 
presence of the so-called "new messiah." 

He squats at the far end of the cave, the entire floor of which 
is covered with a beautifully patterned Persian rug. He proves 
to be somewhat different from the person I have imagined. His 
eyes do not penetrate me, his facial expression lacks strength, 
and although I am aware of something ascetic, unworldly and 
gentle in his atmosphere, I wonder why I feel no responsive 
thrill, such as one may reasonably expect to feel in the presence 
of one who proposes to win the allegiance of millions of 

He is clothed in a long, spotless white robe, which looks 
ludicrously like an old-fashioned English nightshirt! His 
amiable and kindly face is framed in chestnut-coloured hair, 
which falls in long curly waves to his neck. I am struck by the 
soft, silky texture of the hair, which is remarkably like the hair 
of a woman. His nose rises into arched prominence and then 
descends into aquiline depth. The eyes are dark, medium 
sized and clear, but I find them unimpressive. A heavy brown 
moustache stretches across his upper lip. The light-tinted 


olive skin betrays his Persian origin, for his father hails from 
the land of the Shahs. Withal he is young, apparently some- 
where in the thirties. A final feature which remains in memory 
is his forehead. It is so low as to appear less than average 
height, and it is so receding as to make me wonder. Do brain 
areas carry qualitative significance? Does a man's forehead 
indicate his powers of thought? But possibly a messiah is 
above such physical limitations! 

"I am pleased to see you," he remarks, but not, mind you, 
in the usual manner of human speech. For he holds a small 
alphabet board upon his lap and points rapidly with his index 
finger to one letter after another. As the words are spelt out 
in this dumb pantomime manner, his secretary interprets them 
aloud for my benefit. 

Since the tenth of July, 1925, the holy man has not 
uttered a single word. His younger brother tells me that 
when the new messiah breaks into speech, his message will 
startle the world! Meanwhile, he adopts a pose of strict 

Still fingering the board, Meher Baba makes some kindly 
inquiries into my personal well-being, asks questions about my 
life, and expresses his gratification at my interest in India. 
He possesses an excellent knowledge of English, so there is no 
necessity to translate my speech. He postpones till the late 
afternoon the lengthy interview which I request. "Food and 
rest are your immediate needs," he says, or rather, 

I adjourn to one of the stone structures. It possesses a 
bare gloomy interior, but contains an old bedstead without 
bedding, a ramshackle table and a chair which might have 
rendered good service during the Indian Mutiny. Here I am 
to make my home for nearly a week. I peer through the 
glassless window and am rewarded by a view of sparse, 
unfilled fields stretching away into scrub bush dotted with 

Four hours creep lethargically around my watch. Once 
again I sit upon the Persian rug, face to face with Meher Baba, 
whose colossal claim that he is destined to give spiritual light 
and practical leading to the whole of mankind, I have yet to 

He puts this claim into the first sentence which he flicks out 
on the alphabet board. 

"I shall change the history of the whole world I" 

My note-taking disturbs him, however. 


"Can you not make your notes after you leave me?" 
I agree, and henceforth inscribe his words upon the pages 
of memory. 

"As Jesus came to impart spirituality to a materialistic age, 
so have I come to impart a spiritual push to present-day 
mankind. There is always a fixed time for such divine work- 
ings, and when the hour is ripe I shall reveal my true nature 
to the entire world. The great teachers of religion - Jesus, 
Buddha, Muhammed and Zoroaster - do not differ in their 
essential doctrines. All these prophets came from God. The 
chief commandments run through all their teachings like a 
golden thread. These divine ones came out into public 
when their help was most needed, when spirituality was at 
its lowest ebb and materialism was apparently everywhere 
victorious. Such a time we are fast approaching at present. 
The whole world is now enmeshed in sensual desires, in racial 
selfishness and money worship. God is forsaken. True 
religion is abused; man seeks life and the priests usually give 
him a stone. God, therefore, must send his true prophet 
among men once again to establish true worship and to awaken 
people out of their materialistic stupor. I but follow in the 
line of those earlier prophets; this is my mission. God has 
given me a mandate." 

I listen quietly while the secretary voices these amazing 
assertions. I keep my mind open, uncritical, and offer no 
mental resistance. This is not to say that I accept them, 
however, but that I am aware one must know how to listen 
among these Orientals. Otherwise a Westerner will get little 
for his pains, even where there might be something worthy of 
acceptance. Truth can stand a ruthless investigation, but the 
methods of the Occident must be modified to suit the mental 
atmosphere of the Orient. 
Meher Baba smiles genially at me, and then proceeds: 
"The prophets lay down certain rules and regulations to 
help the masses lead better lives and to incline them towards 
God. Gradually these rules become the tenets of an organized 
religion, but the idealistic spirit and motive force which prevail 
during the founder's lifetime, disappear gradually after his 
death. That is why organizations cannot bring spiritual truth 
nearer and why true religion is always a personal concern. 
Religious organizations become like archaeological departments 
trying to resuscitate the past. Therefore I shall not attempt 
to establish any new religion, cult or organization. But I shall 
rejuvenate the religious thought of all peoples, instil a higher 


understanding of life into them. Dogmas invented centuries 
after the founder's death, frequently differ startlingly, but the 
fundamentals of all religions are really the same, because all 
issue from the same source - God. Therefore, when I appear 
publicly I shall run down no existing religion, but then I shall 
not uphold any special one. I want to turn men's minds away 
from sectarian differences, so that they will agree on essential 
truths. Remember though, that every prophet considers the 
times, the circumstances and the prevailing mentality of 
the people before his public manifestation. He therefore 
preaches doctrines best understood and best suited to such 

Meher Baba pauses for a while to let these exalted ideas soak 
into my head, and then his words take a new turn. 

"Have you not noticed how all the nations have been 
brought into quick communication with each other during this 
modern epoch? Do you not see how railways, steamships, 
telephones, cables, wireless and newspapers have caused the 
whole world to become a closely-woven unit? An important 
event which happens in one country is made known within a 
day to the people of a country ten thousand miles away. There- 
fore a man who wishes to deliver an important message can 
find almost the whole of mankind as a ready audience. For all 
that there is a sound reason. The time is soon coming to 
give mankind a universal spiritual belief which shall serve 
all races of people and all countries. In other words, the 
way is being prepared to enable me to deliver a world-wide 

This breath-taking announcement indicates sufficiently that 
Meher Baba possesses an unlimited faith in his own future, and 
indeed, his whole manner confirms it. In his own estimation, 
his stock will one day stand at infinitely more than par! 

"But when shall you tell the world about your mission?" 
I ask. 

"I shall break my silence and deliver my message only 
when there is chaos and confusion everywhere, for then I shall 
be most needed; when the world is rocking in upheavals - 
earthquakes, floods and volcanic eruptions; when both East 
and West are aflame with war. Truly the whole world must 
suffer, for the whole world must be redeemed." 

"Do you know the date of this war?" 

"Yes. It is not far off. But I do not wish to reveal the 
date." 1 

1 See also Chapter XIV. 


"That is a terrible prophecy!" I exclaim. 
Meher Baba spreads out his thin tapering fingers 

"It is. The war will be terrible in its nature because 
scientific ingenuity will make it more intense than the last 
war. However, it will last only a short time - a few months - 
and at its worst I shall make myself publicly known and 
declare my mission to the entire world. By my material 
efforts and spiritual powers, I shall speedily bring the conflict 
to an abrupt end, thus restoring peace to all the nations. Yet 
great natural changes must take place on this planet simul- 
taneously. Life and property in different parts of the globe 
will suffer. If I play the role of a messiah it will be because 
world conditions require it. Be assured that I shall not leave 
my spiritual work undone." 

His secretary, a short dusky-faced man who wears the round 
black cap of the Mahratta people, looks at me impressively 
after he finishes speaking the last word. The expression on his 
face seems to say: "There! how do you like that! You see 
what important things we know here ! " 

His master's fingers begin to move over the board once more, 
and he hastens to tell me their new import. 

"After the war will come a long era of unique peace, a time 
of world tranquillity. Disarmament will then no longer be a 
matter of mere talk, but an actual fact. Racial and communal 
strife will cease; sectarian hatred between religious organi- 
zations will come to an end. I shall travel widely throughout 
the world and the nations will be eager to see me. My spiritual 
message will reach every land, every town, every village even. 
Universal brotherhood; peace among men; sympathy for 
the poor and downtrodden; love of God - I shall promote 
these things." 

"What of India - your own country?" 
"In India I shall not rest till the pernicious caste system is 
uprooted and destroyed. India became depressed in the scale 
of nations with the establishment of caste. When the out- 
castes and lower castes are elevated, India will find herself to 
be one of the influential countries of the world." 
"And what of her future?" 

"Despite its faults, India is still the most spiritual country 
in the world. The future will find it the moral leader of all the 
nations. All the great founders of religions were born in the 
East, and it is to the East that the peoples must continue to look 
for spiritual light." 


I try to visualize the great Western nations sitting at the feet 
of the meek little brown men, but fail. Perhaps the white-robed 
figure squatting in front of me grasps my difficulty, for he adds : 

"The so-called subjection of India is not real subjection. 
It is of the body, and therefore temporary. The soul of the 
country is deathless and great, even if outwardly the nation 
has lost its power." 

This subtle explanation somewhat eludes my understanding. 
I return to our earlier theme. 

"We in the West have heard most of the things in your 
message from other sources. You have nothing new to tell 
us, then?" 

"My words can only echo the old spiritual truths, but it is 
my mystic power that will bring a new element into the world's 

Upon this point I seek to rest my brain. For a while there is 
silence; I ask no more questions. I turn my head and gaze 
out of the cave. Far across the quiet fields, a line of hills rises 
in the distance. In the sky, a pitiless sun scorches man, beast 
and earth alike. The minutes pass. In this secluded cave, in 
this unending heat, surrounded by absorbent minds, it is easy 
to weave grandiose schemes of world reformation, to possess 
oneself of extravagant religious ideas. But out in the world of 
reality, amid the hard life of materialistic cities, these things 
would soon dissipate like mists before the dawning sun. 

"Europe is hard, sceptical," I remark, turning and looking 
at the new messiah. "How are you going to convince us that 
you speak with real divine authority? How can you convert 
unfamiliar peoples to your brand of spiritual belief? The 
average Westerner will tell you that it is impossible, and very 
likely he will laugh at you for your pains." 

"Ah, you do not realize how changed the times will be." 

Meher Baba strokes his pale slender hands. And then he 
adds some astounding claims, which sound fantastic to Western 
ears, yet his manner is quite matter-of-fact. 

"Once I publicly announce myself as a messiah, nothing 
will be able to withstand my power. I shall openly work 
miracles in proof of my mission at the same time. Restoring 
sight to the blind, healing the sick, maimed and crippled, yes, 
even raising the dead - these things will be child's play to me ! 
I shall work these miracles because through them people will 
everywhere be forced to believe in me, and then believe in my 
message. These wonders will not be done to satisfy idle 
curiosity, but to convince the sceptically minded." 


I hold my breath. The interview has reached the boundary 
of common sense. My mind begins to falter. We are entering 
the region of Oriental fantasy. 

"Make no mistake, however," continues the Parsee messiah. 
"I tell my disciples that these miracles are to be done only for 
the masses, not for them. I should not care to perform a single 
wonder, but I know that this will turn the minds of common 
people to my words. If I shall astonish the peoples of the world 
with these feats, it will be only because I wish to spiritualize 

"Baba has already done marvellous things," breaks in the 

I am instantly alert. 

"Such as ?" I demand quickly. 

The master smiles self-deprecatingly. 

"Tell him another time, Vishnu," he communicates." I 
can perform any miracle when necessary. It is easy to one who 
has reached my divine state." 

I make a mental note to buttonhole the secretary on the 
morrow and get some details of these reputed marvels. They 
will form an interesting part of my investigation. I come as a 
circumspect inquirer and every kind of fact will make grist for 
my mill. 

There is another interlude of silence. I request the holy man 
to give me certain information about his career. 

"Tell him that also, Vishnu," he answers, directing me 
again to his secretary. "You will have plenty of opportunity 
to talk to my disciples, since you are staying here for a little 
while. They can tell you about the past." 

The talk drifts into the domain of general matters. Soon 
after, our meeting disperses. The first thing I do on getting 
back to my quarters is to light a cigarette, thus atoning for the 
one forbidden me, and then watch its fragrant smoke rise 
erratically upward. 


I witness a curious spectacle in the early evening. The stars 
have just begun to twinkle faintly, the day is not quite dead, and 
in this queer half light a few oil lanterns glow palely. Meher 
sits inside his cave while a motley crowd, composed of dis- 
ciples, visitors and people from the nearby village of Arangaon, 
gather in horseshoe fashion around the entrance. 

A ceremony which is repeated every evening wherever 


Meher may be at the time is about to take place. A devotee 
holds aloft a shallow metal bowl which serves as a lamp, its wick 
being dipped in oil which is strongly perfumed with sandal- 
wood. He waves it seven times around the saintly head of his 
master. The assembled audience thereupon break into a 
vigorous chorus of chants and prayers. Through the in- 
tonations of their Mahratti dialect, I catch the name of Baba 
several times. It is obvious that the chants are hyperboles of 
adulation for their master. Everyone looks at him with 
adoring eyes. Meher's younger brother sits at a small portable 
harmonium, and makes a wailing kind of music to accompany 
the singers. 

During the course of the ceremony, each devotee files up to 
the cave in turn, prostrates himself before Meher and kisses 
his uncovered feet. Some are so overwrought with pious 
emotion that they prolong the act of osculation to a full minute! 
I am told that this act is deemed extremely beneficial spirit- 
ually, since it brings Meher's blessing upon the devotee and 
automatically washes away some of his sins. 

I walk back to my quarters, wondering what the next day will 
bring forth. Somewhere across the fields and out in the jungle 
ajackal bays and breaks the night's silence. 

The next day I gather the secretary and some of the English- 
speaking disciples outside one of their wooden bungalows. We 
sit in a half circle. Those who do not understand English stand 
a little distance away and watch us with smiling faces and 
interested eyes. I proceed to extract from all these collective 
minds and memories such facts about their amazing master's 
career as I do not already know. 

His personal name is Meher, but he calls himself Sadguru 
Meher Baba. Sadguru means "perfect master," while Baba 
is simply a term of affection in common use among some of the 
Indian peoples, and it is by this name alone that his disciples 
usually address him. 

Meher Baba's father is a Persian 1 who is an adherent of the 
Zoroastrian creed, and who emigrated to India as a poor youth. 
Meher was his first son and was born in 1894 at Poona City. 
The boy was put to school at five, proved good at his studies, 
and passed the matriculation examination at seventeen. He then 
entered Deccan College in Poona and received a good modern 
education for two years. 

Now began the tortuous and incomprehensible phase of his 
career. He was cycling back from school one evening and was 
1 Hence the appellation Parsee. 


about to pass the dwelling-place of a well-known Muhammedan 
woman faqueer. Her name was Hazrat Babajan, and she was 
reputed to be over a century old. She was reclining on a long 
couch which stood upon a railed veranda outside her humble 
wooden one-roomed house. When the cycle drew abreast of 
her, the old woman rose and beckoned to the boy. He dis- 
mounted and approached her. She clasped his hands and 
embraced him and then kissed his forehead. 

What happened afterwards is not very clear. I gathered that 
the youth reached his home in a dazed mental state, and that 
during the following eight months his mental faculties pro- 
gressively weakened until he became unable to study properly. 
In the end he had to bid a final farewell to his college, because 
he could no longer follow his lessons. 

Thereafter young Meher fell into a semi-idiotic condition 
and was hardly able to look after himself. His eyes became dull 
and lifeless, and he lacked the intelligence to perform the most 
elementary duties of a human being, such as taking food, washing 
oneself, attending to the calls of nature, and so on. When his 
father said, "Eat ! " he took his food in a mechanical manner; 
otherwise he did not understand why the food was put before 
him. In short he became a human automaton. 

A young man of twenty, whose parents have to care for him 
like a child of three, seems a case of mental regression, and the 
distracted father concluded that he had overworked his mind 
while cramming for an examination. Meher was taken to 
various doctors, who diagnosed mental breakdown and gave 
him injections. In nine months' time improvement in his 
lamentable condition set in and gradually increased, until he 
was able to understand his environment intelligently and to act 
more normally. 

After his recovery it was discovered that his character had 
changed. His scholastic ambitions were gone, his ambitions for 
a worldly career had disappeared, while his interest in games 
and sports had collapsed. All these things were replaced by a 
deep thirst for the religious life and by a continuous aspiration 
to spiritualize himself. 

Because he believed that these changes took their root in the 
kiss which the Mudammedan woman faqueer had bestowed on 
him, Meher approached the old lady for advice about his 
future. She directed him to find a spiritual teacher. He 
inquired where this boon was to be obtained. She waved her 
hand vaguely into space for reply. 

He visited several holy men of repute in the locality. Then 


he went farther afield to the villages within a hundred miles of 
his native Poona. One day he walked into a little stone-built 
temple near Sakori. It was a poor humble shrine but it was the 
abode of a very holy man, or so the villagers said. And so, when 
Meher came face to face with Upasani Maharaj, he felt that he 
had found his master. 

The young aspirant for holiness made periodic excursions 
from home to Sakori. He usually spent a few days at a time 
with his teacher, but once he remained for four months. Meher 
asserts that during this period he was being perfected, made 
ready for his mission. One evening he collected thirty of his old 
schoolmates and boyhood friends, gave them mysterious hints 
of an important meeting, and brought them to the little temple 
in Sakori. The doors were locked and Upasani Maharaj, the 
stern-looking holy man who lived there, rose and addressed the 
gathering. He spoke to them about religion, told them to seek 
virtue, informed them that he had made Meher the spiritual 
inheritor of his own mystic powers and knowledge, and finally 
announced to the surprised young men that Meher had 
attained divine perfection! He strongly advised them to 
become followers of their Parsee friend, for then they would 
receive great spiritual benefit, both in this life and in that to 

Some of his listeners took his advice and others remained 
sceptical. About a year later, when Meher had reached the age 
of twenty-seven, the young Parsee announced to his small 
flock that he had become conscious of a divine mission which 
he was to carry out, and that God had given him a work of 
colossal importance to mankind. He did not straightway reveal 
the precise nature of that mission, but within a few years he let 
the secret emerge. He was destined to become a messiah! 

In 1924 Meher left India for the first time. He embarked on 
a journey to Persia with a company of half a dozen disciples, 
telling them that he would tour the country of his ancestors. 
When the ship touched port at Bushire, he suddenly changed 
his mind and left the place by the next homeward boat. Three 
months later rebel forces captured Teheran, the Persian capital 
and deposed the old regime. A new Shah came to the throne. 

Meher Baba then turned to his followers and said: 

"Now you see the result of my mystic workings during my 
visit to Persia! " 

His disciples told me that Persia was a happier land under the 
new ruler, and that Muhammedans, Zoroastrians, Jews and 
Christians were living amicably together, whereas there had 


been constant strife and cruel outrages among them under the 
old regime. 

Some years after this mysterious excursion, Meher Baba 
began a curious educational institution. At his suggestion a 
disciple purchased the colony's present site near the village of 
Arangaon. Several rough bungalows were constructed, to- 
gether with many thatch-and-pole huts. A free boarding school 
was then declared open, the teachers being recruited from the 
Parsee's educated disciples and the pupils from the families of 
devotees or their friends. No fees were charged for tuition, 
while even board and lodging were free. In addition to the 
usual secular subjects, there was special instruction in un- 
denominational religion by Meher himself. 

On such attractive terms it was an easy matter to collect 
nearly one hundred boys. A dozen of them arrived from dis- 
tant Persia. The boys were taught the moral ideals which are 
more or less common to most religions, and the life stories of 
the great prophets were unfolded to them. The class on 
religion gradually became the central feature of the curriculum 
and Meher Baba led the older boys into a devotional mysticism 
which appears to have been of a somewhat watery nature. 
They were taught to regard him as a sacred personage, even to 
worship him. A few boys began to manifest signs of religious 
hysteria in the sequence. Strange scenes occurred among 
them every few days. 

A noticeable feature of this unusual school was that the pupils 
belonged to varying castes, races and creeds. Hindus 
Muhammedans, Indian Christians and Zoroastrians mingled 
freely, but Meher Baba wanted a still wider enrolment. He sent 
his chief disciple on a mission to England to find a few white 
pupils. The emissary, however, encountered much difficulty 
because the white parents were unwilling to entrust their 
children to a stranger, who wanted to haul the latter off to a 
school in distant Asia. Moreover, the idea of a school com- 
bining all religions did not mean much to them. There are 
plenty of schools in England where pupils of different creeds 
foregather in a natural spontaneous manner without the fuss 
that is made of it in a creed -ridden country like India. 

One day the emissary from India met an Englishman who 
straightaway became converted to acceptance of the Parsee 
messiah after a conversation or two. The man was possessed 
of an enthusiastic temperament and having rapidly travelled 
through all the cults which honeycomb London, he was ready 
for what seemed to be the loftier message of Meher Baba. So 


he assisted in the quest for white pupils and found three 
children, whose poverty-stricken parents were willing to ease 
their own burdens at the price of parting with them. At this 
stage the India Office bestirred itself into activity, investigated 
the matter, shook its official head and put a ban on the project. 
The children did not sail. The representative of the Parsee 
messiah returned to India, accompanied by the Englishman 
and the latter's wife and sister-in-law. Five or six months 
after their arrival, Meher Baba sent them back to England at 
the expense of his chief disciple. 

I learnt from Meher that his object in founding this school 
was twofold. First, he wanted to break down the racial and 
religious barriers among the pupils; secondly, he sought to 
train a selected number of them as future ambassadors for his 
spiritual cause. When the years had sufficiently ripened them 
and the time came for public announcement of his own mission, 
he would send them out to all the five continents to act as 
apostles and helpers in his destined work of spiritualising 

Another activity developed into being alongside the school. 
A primitive hospital was opened and ardent disciples were sent 
out to collect the blind, the ailing and the crippled from the 
locality. The latter were given free medical treatment, food 
and accommodation, while the Parsee holy man provided them 
with spiritual consolation. Five lepers were cured by his mere 
touch, says an enthusiastic devotee. Alas, I am a trifle sceptical, 
for no one knows who they are, where they are or how to find 
them now. 'Tis a piece of Oriental exaggeration, I fear. 
Surely one of the lepers would have attached himself to Meher 
Baba's train of disciples in sheer gratitude. Surely the news 
would have spread like a prairie fire across leprosy-ridden 
India, and all the stricken souls of the country would have 
eagerly flocked to the hospital near Arangaon. 

There grew up a large camp-following of devotees, visitors 
and hangers-on from nearby villages. The population of this 
unusual colony reached into hundreds; intense religious 
fervour pervaded the whole place; and Meher Baba was, of 
course, the centre of the whole picture. 

Eighteen months after the colony was founded, it was 
suddenly closed down and all these activities were abandoned. 
The boys were sent back to their parents and the patients to 
their homes. Meher Baba vouchsafed no reason for this move 
on his part. I learnt that sudden inexplicable impulses of this 
kind were a regular feature of his conduct. 


In the spring of 1929 he sent out his first missionary disciple, 
a man named Sadhu Leik, who was bidden to go on tour round 
India. The latter was told as a parting injunction: 

"You have the advantage of a messiah to work for. Be 
cosmopolitan and do not run down any religion. Be sure 
that I will know all about you. Do not be disheartened 
by the remarks of others. I will lead you, and follow none 
but me." 

From the information which I picked up it was obvious that 
the poor fellow was physically unfitted for a wandering life. 
He was able to create a small following in Madras, but soon 
sickened on the way and then returned to die. 

Such is a rapid outline of the Parsee holy man's career. 


I have had several fugitive talks of a chatty nature with 
Meher Baba, but I want to hear something more definite about 
his self-appointed mission to the world. So I seek and obtain 
my final interview with him. 

He wears a soft blue scarf to-day and the alphabet board 
rests upon his knees in readiness for our conversation. The 
disciples present form an admiring audience and provide the 
requisite background. Everyone smiles at everyone else until 
I shoot a sudden question through the silence. 

"How do you know that you are a messiah?" 

The disciples look aghast at my temerity. The master 
moves his bushy eyebrows. But he is not disconcerted, for he 
smiles at the enquiring Westerner and quickly answers: 

"I know! I know it so well. You know that you are a 
human being, and so I know that I am a messiah! It is my 
whole life. My bliss never stops. You never mistake yourself 
for some other person; so I cannot mistake who I am. I have 
a divine work to do and I will do it." 

"What really happened when the Muhammedan woman 
faqueer kissed you. Can you remember?" 

"Yes. Until then I was as worldly as other youths. Hazrat 
Babajan unlocked the door for me. Her kiss was the turning 
point. I felt as though the universe was receding into space; 
and I was left entirely alone. Yes - I was alone with God. For 
months I could not sleep. And yet I grew no weaker but 
remained as strong as before. My father did not understand; 
he thought I was going mad. He called in one doctor and then 


another. They gave me medicines and tried injections, but 
they were all wrong. I was with God and there was nothing 
to cure. Only, I had lost hold of normal existence and it took 
me a long time to get back. Do you understand?" 

"Quite. Now that you have got back, when will you let the 
public know?" 

"My manifestation will happen in the near future, but I 
cannot give you the exact date." 

"And then - ? " 

"My task on this earth will last for thirty-three years. 
Afterwards I shall undergo a tragic death. My own people, the 
Parsees, will be responsible for my violent end. But others will 
continue my work." 

"Your disciples, I presume?" 

"My circle of twelve selected disciples, of whom one will 
become a master at the appointed time. It is for their sake 
that I fast often and observe silence, for this wipes their sins 
away and will enable them to become perfect spiritually. 
They have all been with me in past births, and I am bound to 
help them. There will also be an outer circle with forty-four 
members. They will be men and women of lower spiritual 
grade; their duty will be to assist the twelve chief disciples, 
after the latter have attained perfection." 

"There are other claimants to messiahship?" 

Meher laughs in deprecation of those absurd persons. 

"Yes. There is Krishnamurti - Mrs. Besant's protege. 
The Theosophists deceive themselves. Their chief wire-pullers 
are supposed to be somewhere on the Himalayas in Tibet. 
You will find nothing but dust and stones in their supposed 
abodes. Besides, no real spiritual teacher ever required 
someone else's body to be prepared and trained for his use. 
That is ridiculous." 

Other strange statements emerge from this final conversa- 
tion; a curious jumble of assertions, which come through 
slim fingers flickering from letter to letter. ..." America 
has a great future; she will become a spiritually-minded 
nation. ... I am aware of everyone who puts his faith in 
me, and he is always helped. . . . Do not try to read my 
actions, you will never fathom them. . . . Once I visit a 
place and stay there, however short a time, its spiritual atmo- 
sphere becomes greatly elevated. . . . The general spiritual 
push that I shall give the world will soon put right all material 
problems - economic, political, sexual, sociological - for selfish- 
ness will be destroyed and brotherhood will replace it. . . . 


Shivaji, the chieftain who built up the Mahratta empire in 
the seventeenth century, is also here (he points to himself; 
the meaning is that Meher is a reincarnation of Shivaji). . . . 
Some of the planets are inhabited; they resemble this globe 
in culture and material advancement, but spiritually our earth 
is most advanced. ..." 

One observes that Meher suffers from no modesty when 
discussing his claims. I am a little startled, however, when he 
communicates a command to me at the finish of the interview. 

"Go to the West as my representative! Spread my name 
as that of the coming divine messenger. Work for me and my 
influence, and you will then be working for the good of 

"The world will probably scout me as a madman," I reply 
uneasily, for such a task staggers my imagination. 

Meher disagrees. 

I answer that nothing short of working a series of miracles 
will convince the West that anyone is a spiritual superman, 
let alone a messiah, and that since I cannot perform miracles 
I cannot undertake the job of being his herald. 

"Then you shall perform them!" is his comforting 

I remain silent. Meher misconstrues my silence. 

"Stay with me and I shall confer great powers on you," he 
urges. "You are very fortunate. I will help you to obtain 
advanced powers, so that you will render service in the West." 


It is unnecessary to describe the remainder of this incredible 
interview. Some men are born great, some achieve greatness, 
and others appoint a press agent. Meher seems to favour the 
latter course. 

Next day I prepare to leave. I have imbibed sufficient 
pious wisdom and prophetic forebodings to suffice me for the 
time. I have not wandered to distant parts of the world 
merely to hear religious assertions or declarations of grandeur. 
I want facts, even if they are to be facts of a strange, uncommon 
kind. And I want reliable evidence; better still, something 
personal, something to which I can testify for my own 

My kit is packed, I am about to leave. I go to Meher and 
bid him a polite farewell. He informs me that within a few 


months he will be in residence at his central headquarters, 
which are situated near the town of Nasik. He suggests that 
I should visit him there and stay for a month. 

"Do this. Come when you can. I will give you wonderful 
spiritual experiences and enable you to know the real truth 
about me. You will be shown my inner spiritual powers. 
After that, you will have no more doubts. You will be able to 
prove by your own personal experiences what I claim. Then 
you can go to the West and win many people for me." 

I decide to return at my leisure and spend a month with 
him. Despite the theatrical character of the Parsee holy man 
and the fantastic nature of his mission, I decide to investigate 
the whole thing with an open mind. 


A brief return to the stir of city life in Bombay, and then I 
entrain for Poona. My wanderings around this ancient land 
are about to begin. 

The old Muhammedan holy woman, whose sudden inter- 
vention started Meher Baba off on his queer tangent, engages 
my interest. I deem a short visit to her will not come amiss. 
I have already made a few preliminary enquiries about her in 
Bombay, where I learn from former Judge Khandalawalla, 
who has known her for fifty years, that her age is really about 
ninety-five. I remember that Meher's followers informed me 
that it is one hundred and thirty, but I generously ascribe this 
exaggeration to the heat of their enthusiasm. 

The Judge briefly tells me her story. She is a native of 
Baluchistan, that vague territory situate between Afghanistan 
and India, and she ran away from home quite early. After 
long and adventurous wanderings afoot, she arrived at Poona 
about the beginning of this century and has never moved 
from the city since. At first, she made her home under a 
neem tree, where she insisted on remaining in all seasons. Her 
reputation for sanctity and strange powers spread throughout 
the Muhammedan people in the vicinity, until even the 
Hindus came to treat her with due reverence. Some Muham- 
medans eventually built a wooden shelter under the tree for 
her, since she refused to live in a proper house. This gives her 
the semblance of a home and provides some protection against 
the inclemencies of the monsoon season. 

I ask the Judge for his personal opinion. He replies that he 


does not doubt but that Hazrat Babajan is a genuine faqueer 
The Judge happens to be a Parsee, so I make some judicious 
enquiries about Meher Baba, who is well known to him. 
What I learn is unlikely to make me more favourable to the 
Parsee messiah. I ask him finally about Upasani Maharaj, 
who is now the inspirer of Meher. My informant, a shrewd, 
discerning old man of vast experience in these and worldly 
matters, enters into a lengthy account of his own unfortunate 
contact with him. I give two instances: 

"Upasani has made ghastly mistakes. He once induced me 
to go to Benares, where he was staying at the time. After a 
while, I got a premonition of death and wanted to return to 
Poona, where my family was living. Upasani prevented me 
from going by repeatedly prophesying that everything would 
be all right. Nevertheless, two days later I received a telegram 
saying that my son's wife had given birth to a child, and that 
it died within a few minutes. In the other case, Upasani told 
my son-in-law, who was thinking of going on the Bombay 
Stock Exchange, that such a move would prove extremely 
fortunate for him. Acting on this advice, he embarked on the 
Exchange and was almost ruined!" 

Judge Khandalawalla impresses me with the independence 
of his outlook. He debunks Upasani Maharaj, whom Meher 
Baba has described to me as "one of the greatest spiritual 
personalities of this age," yet he does not hesitate to admit that 
Meher himself is honest and really believes in his spiritual 
attainment, although this attainment remains unproven. 

I reach Poona, put up at a hotel in the cantonment, and then 
drive straight to the abode of Hazrat Babajan. A guide, who 
knows her personally and who will eke out my little Hindustani 
as an interpreter, accompanies me. 

We find her in a narrow street, whose lighting is a quaint 
mixture of gaudy little oil lamps and electric globes. She lies, 
in full view of passers-by, upon a low divan. A fenced veranda 
rail separates it from the street. Above the wooden shelter 
rises the shapely outline of a neem tree, whose white blossoms 
make the air slightly fragrant. 

"You must take off your shoes," my guide warns me." It 
is considered disrespectful to wear them when you enter." 
I obey him and a minute later we stand by her bedside. 

She lies flat on her back, this ancient dame. Her head is 
propped by pillows. The lustrous whiteness of her silky hair 
offers a sad contrast to the heavily wrinkled face and seamed 


Out of my slender store of newly-learnt Hindustani I 
address a phrase of self-introduction to the old lady. She 
turns her aged head, stretches out a skinny, bony forearm, 
and then takes one of my hands in her own. She holds it 
tightly, staring up at me with unworldly eyes. 

Those eyes puzzle me. They seem to be quite uncompre- 
hending, entirely vacant. She silently grips my hand for three 
or four minutes and continues to look blankly into my own 
eyes. I receive the feeling that her gaze penetrates me. It is 
a weird sensation. I do not know what to do. . . . 

At last she withdraws her hand and brushes her forehead 
several times. Then she turns to my guide and says something 
to him, but it is in the vernacular and I cannot grasp its 

He whispers the translation: 

" He has been called to India and soon he will understand." 
A pause, and then she croaks forth another sentence, but its 
meaning were better kept in my memory than in print. 

Her voice is extremely feeble; her words emerge slowly 
and with much difficulty. Is it possible that this aged and 
decrepit fleshly frame, this haggard and huddled figure, 
contains the soul of a genuine faqueer with wondrous powers? 
Who can say? It is not always easy to read the pages of the 
soul by the letters of the body. 

But the woman is nearing her century. I have been warned 
that continued conversation with her is not permissible, owing 
to her enfeebled condition. I prepare to withdraw quietly, 
strongly impressed by one thought. I think that the vacancy 
of her eyes is a signal that she is near the gate of death. The 
mind is parting from the worn-out body, but drags itself back 
now and again to pay a feeble attention to this world through 
strange eyes. 1 

In the hotel, I sum up my feelings. That some deep 
psychological attainment really resides in the depths of her 
being, I am certain. Respect rises unbidden within me. I 
find that the contact has diverted my normal thought currents 
and raised up an inexplicable sense of that element of mystery 
which surrounds our earthly lives, despite all the discoveries 
and speculations of the scientists. I see with unexpected 
clarity that those scientific writers who profess to reveal the 
fundamental secrets of the great world puzzle, profess what is 
nothing more than surface scratching. But I cannot under- 

1 I visited her again some months later. The impression of her 
near decease was confirmed. She died soon after. 


stand why a brief contact with the woman faqueer should so 
sap at the very base of my confident mental certainties. 

The cryptic prophecy she made recurs to my mind. I am 
unable to grasp its meaning. No one has called me to India; 
have I not gone freely of my own whim? . . . Only now, as 
I write these lines, long after the event, do I believe that I 
begin dimly to understand. 'Tis a strange world, my masters! 



TIE hands race around my watch, the weeks move 
across the face of my calendar, while I work my way 
southwards across the Deccan plateau. I visit several 
remarkable places, but find few remarkable men. Some 
inscrutable, impelling force - which I cannot understand, but 
which I blindly obey - hurries my pace so that sometimes I 
rush onwards as though I am a tourist. 

At last I am on the train to Madras, where I intend to halt 
and establish myself for a while. During the long night journey, 
when sleep is difficult to procure, I take count of the invisible 
gains which I have reaped during these travels in Western 

I force myself to confess that so far I have not tracked down 
any Yogi, about whose discovery I can feel unduly elated; as 
for the thought of finding a Rishee, that now lies in the remote 
depths of my mind. On the other hand, I have seen enough of 
the gross superstitions and suffocating customs of sleepy 
India, to make me realize that the scepticism and warnings 
of some chance Bombay acquaintances are well justified. 
I realize, too, that my self-imposed task will be difficult of 
fulfilment. Pious men are here in all their fifty-seven 
varieties, but they do not provide sufficient attraction. One 
wanders by temples whose mysterious interior seems to promise 
much. I cross the sacred precincts and stand at the threshold. 
I peep inside and behold the fantastic worshippers, who toll a 
bell as they pray, that their prayers may not escape the ears of 
their chosen deity! 

I am glad to reach Madras, whose straggling and colourful 
appearance appeals to me, and I settle in a charming suburb 
about two miles outside the city so as to get easier contact 
with the Indian, rather than the European, element. My 
house is in the Street of the Brahmins. The road is choked 
with a thick layer of sand, into which my shoes readily sink; 



the sidewalk is made of beaten earth: everything is free from 
the improving touch of the twentieth century. The white- 
washed houses have pillared porches and open verandas. In 
the interior of mine, there is a tiled courtyard, around which 
runs a covered gallery. Our water is hauled up by a bucket 
from an old well. 

The luxuriant tropical scenery which unfolds as soon as 
one gets away from the two or three streets which compose 
this suburb affords me perpetual delight. Soon I discover 
that the Adyar River is less than half an hour's walk away. 
There are several shady palm groves near this wide stream, 
and they take my fancy. I spend my spare time loitering 
among them or walk for a few miles beside the languid water. 

The Adyar River flows down to Madras, of which city it 
forms the southern boundary, and then joins the ocean amid 
the ceaseless rise and fall of the Coromandel surf. Alongside 
this beautiful stream I slowly amble one morning, accompanied 
by a Brahmin acquaintance who learns where my interests lie. 
After some time he suddenly seizes my arm. 

"Look!" he exclaims. "Do you see that young man who 
is approaching us? He is known to be a Yogi. He would 
interest you, but, alas! he never talks to us." 

" Why not?" 

"I know where he lives, but he is the most reserved man 
in the whole district." 

By this time the stranger has almost reached us. He 
possesses an athletic figure, and I judge him to be about thirty- 
five. He is slightly above medium height. What strikes me 
most, however, is the negroid character of his face. The skin 
has darkened to a shade of black, and the broad flat nose, the 
thick lips and muscular frame, all betoken non-Aryan blood. 
His long neatly-plaited hair is gathered around the crown of 
his head in a sort of top-knot. He wears a peculiar kind of 
large ear-ring. A white shawl is wrapped around his body 
and then flung across the left shoulder. The legs are bare 
and the feet uncovered. 

He completely ignores us and paces onwards with slow 
steps. His eyes are downcast, as though intent on searching 
the ground. One gathers the impression that the mind behind 
those eyes is pondering over some matter. What, I wonder, 
is the subject of this walking meditation? 

He piques and arouses my interest still further. An intense 
desire to break down the barriers which separate us grips me 


"I want to talk to him. Let us turn back," I suggest. 

The Brahmin protests firmly. 

"It is useless." 

"At least I can try," I answer. 

The Brahmin again endeavours to dissuade me. 

"That man is so inaccessible that we know hardly anything 
of him. He keeps himself quite aloof from his neighbours. 
We must not interfere with him." 

But I am already moving in the reputed Yogi's direction 
and my companion has perforce to follow me. 

We are soon behind the other man, who gives no sign of his 
awareness of our presence, but continues to pace slowly onward. 
We follow with parallel steps. 

"Please ask if I may converse with him," I tell my com- 
panion. The latter hesitates, and then shakes his head. 

"No - I dare not," he declares weakly. 

The unpleasant possibility that I might be missing a valuable 
contact stirs me to further effort. There is no alternative 
but to address the Yogi myself. I throw all conventions - 
Hindu and European - to the wind, stand directly in his path 
and face him. I try a brief sentence out of my slight stock 
of Hindustani. He looks up; there is a half-smile around his 
mouth, but he makes a negative gesture of the head. 

At this time I know only a single word of Tamil, which is the 
vernacular of Madras, and doubtless the Yogi knows even less 
of English. Few people know Hindustani in the South, but 
of this fact I am not yet aware. Fortunately, the Brahmin 
begins to feel that he cannot leave me so helpless, and advances 
to the rescue. 

In a hesitant, apologetic voice, he says something in 

The Yogi does not reply. His face hardens, the eyes become 
cold and unfriendly. 

The Brahmin looks at me embarrassed. A prolonged pause 
follows. Neither of us knows what to do. I realize ruefully 
what a difficult task it is to help hermits to find their tongues. 
They dislike being interviewed, and they do not wish to talk 
to strangers about their intimate experiences. They dislike, 
especially, being asked to break their chronic silence for the 
sake of a sun-helmeted white man, who is tacitly assumed to 
possess neither sympathy with nor understanding of the 
subtleties of Yoga. 

This feeling is succeeded by another. I become strangely 
aware of a penetrating inspection on the Yogi's part. Some- 


how, I sense that he is mentally probing my innermost thoughts. 
Yet outwardly he remains aloof, indifferent. Am I mistaken? 

But I cannot shake off this weird feeling that I have become 
a kind of human microscopical specimen. 

The Brahmin becomes very nervous and nudges me as a hint 
to be off. Another minute and I shall yield to his silent 
importunity and go away defeated. 

The Yogi makes a sudden gesture of his hand, leads us 
towards a tall palm tree close by, and silently bids us sit down 
at its foot. He then drops to the ground himself. 

He addresses some Tamil words to the Brahmin. I notice 
that his voice possesses a peculiar resonance and a quality 
which is almost musical. 

"The Yogi says that he is willing to converse with you," 
my companion interprets, and then volunteers the statement 
that the other man has peregrinated an unfrequented part of the 
river for some years. 

The first thing I ask is the man's name, whereupon I hear 
such a lengthy string of appellations that I immediately 
christen him anew. It appears that his first name is "Brama- 
suganandah," that he possesses four other names all equally 
long or longer, and that the only useful thing to do seems to be 
to call him Brama. If I am to give all five of the names, the 
words would stretch right across this page, so many letters are 
there in each name! I am both awed and appalled at the 
length of the young man's patronymic. 1 It is, therefore, 
better to maintain a discreet silence about them, and make 
matters easier for unacclimatized readers by referring to him 
henceforth as Brama, the shorter name which I bestow on him 
in conversation. 

"Please tell him that I am interested in Yoga and wish to 
know something about it," I say. 

The Yogi nods his head on hearing the translated statement. 

"Yes, I can see that," he replies with a smile. "Let the 
sahib ask questions." 

"What kind of Yoga practice do you follow?" 

"Mine is the system of Body Control. It is the most 
difficult of all the Yogas. Body and breath must be fought as 
though they were obstinate mules, and they must be conquered. 
Thereafter the nerves and mind are more easily controlled." 

1 Tamil, the vernacular of South-eastern India, is similar to Ger- 
man in the ease with which it forms lengthy compound words. With 
the result that a train will carry you past a railway station called 
Kulasekharapatnam, and - but I had better stop my pen in time! 


"What benefit do you get from it?" 

Brama gazes across the river. 

"Health of the body, strength of the will, length of years 
these are a few benefits," he says. "The Yogi who has 
become a master in the training which I follow, brings the flesh 
to iron-hard endurance. Pains do not move him. I know 
one who submitted to an operation at the hands of a surgeon, 
when no sleep-giving drug could be used. He endured it 
without a murmur. Such a one can also experience in his 
unprotected body the most intense cold, yet receive no hurt." 

I whip out my note-book, for I perceive that our conversation 
is likely to prove more interesting than I anticipated. Brama 
smiles again at my stenography, but does not object. 

"Tell me more about your Yoga system," I beg him. 

"My master has lived on the open mountains of the Hima- 
layas, surrounded by snow and ice and wearing a cinnamon- 
coloured robe for his only comfort. He can sit down for 
several hours at a stretch in a place where it is so cold that 
water instantly freezes. Yet he will feel no distress. Such is 
the power of our Yoga." 

"You are a disciple, then?" 

"Yes. There are still many hills to climb. I have given 
twelve years of unstopping effort to practise our exercises 
every day." 

"And you have attained some unusual powers ?" 

Brama nods his head, but maintains a stolid silence. 

I am intrigued more and more by this strange young 

"Is it permissible to ask how you became a Yogi? " I query, 
somewhat uncertainly. 

At first there is no answer. We three continue to squat 
under the fronded palm. I hear the hoarse cries of errant 
crows among a group of coconut trees on the opposite bank 
of the river. Mingling with this noise comes the fitful chatter 
of a few monkeys, who explore the tree-tops. From the shore 
rises the quiet plash of the water. 

"Most willingly!" comes Brama's sudden reply. I think 
he realizes that my questions are prompted by something 
deeper than mere academic curiosity. He hides his hand 
beneath his shawl, fixes his gaze upon some object on the 
other side of the river, and begins to speak: 

"I was a quiet and lonely child; there was no pleasure for 
me in the usual habits of children. I did not care to play with 
the others, but liked to wander alone in gardens or in the 


fields. Few people understand a brooding boy, and I cannot 
say that I was happy with life. About the age of twelve I 
happened, by mere chance, to overhear the conversation of 
some older persons, and it was through their talk that I first 
discovered the existence of Yoga. This event aroused in me a 
desire to learn more of the matter. I began to enquire into it 
among several people and in this way was able to get a few 
books in Tamil, which revealed many interesting things about 
the Yogis. As a horse riding through a desert thirsts for 
water, so did my mind thirst for still further knowledge about 
them. But I came to a point where it seemed impossible to 
get to know more. One day I re-read, as if by chance, a sen- 
tence in one of my books. It was: 'To succeed on the path 
of Yoga, one must have a personal teacher.' These words 
now made a tremendous impression on me. I felt that only 
by leaving home and travelling about could I find a suitable 
teacher. To this course, my parents would not give permission. 
Not knowing what else to do, I began to practise in secret 
some breathing exercises, about which I had collected some 
scraps of information. These practices did not help me; 
instead, they injured me. I did not then realize that without 
the guidance of an expert teacher, it is not safe for anyone to 
do them. But my eagerness was such that I could not wait 
till I met a teacher. Within a few years the effect of these 
breathing exercises showed itself. A small rupture made its 
appearance on the top of my head; it seemed that the skull 
was broken in its weakest spot. Anyway, blood streamed 
from the wound and my body became cold and numb. I 
thought I was dying. Two hours later a strange vision crossed 
my mind's eye. I seemed to see the figure of a venerable 
Yogi, who addressed me, saying: ' You now see what a 
dangerous condition you have brought yourself into by these 
forbidden practices. Let this be a severe lesson to you.' The 
vision disappeared and, peculiarly enough, from that moment 
my state grew better and I completely recovered. But the 
scar remains still." 

Brama bends his head so as to show the crown to our eyes. 
A tiny rounded scar is plainly visible on his poll. 

"After this unfortunate experience I gave up breathing 
exercises and waited for some years until home ties were 
looser," he goes on. "When my opportunity for freedom 
came, I left home and went out in search of a teacher. I knew 
that the best way to test a teacher is to live with him for a few 
months. I found several teachers and divided my time 


between staying with them for a while and returning home 
disappointed. Some were the heads of monasteries; others 
were the chiefs of institutions of spiritual learning, but somehow 
none of them satisfied me. They gave me plenty of philosophy, 
but little from their own experience. Most of them could 
only repeat what the books said; they could offer no really 
practical guidance. I did not want book theories so much as 
practical experience of Yoga. Thus, I visited no less than ten 
teachers, but they did not seem to be the real Yoga masters. 
I did not despair, though. My youthful eagerness burnt more 
strongly, for rebuffs only increase my determination to succeed. 
"I was now at the gate of manhood. I resolved to leave the 
home of my fathers for ever, to renounce the worldly life and 
to search till death for a true master. I then set out from home 
on my eleventh wandering or pilgrimage. I moved about 
until I came to a large village in the district of Tanjore. I went 
down to the river-side for my morning bath and afterwards 
walked along the bank. Soon I came to a small shrine built of 
red stone, or rather, it was a miniature temple. I peered 
inside out of curiosity and was surprised to see a number of 
men gathered in a circle around a man who was almost nude; 
in fact, he was wearing only a cod-piece. The men were 
looking at him with expressions of the utmost respect. There 
was something venerable, dignified and mysterious in the face 
of the central figure. I remained at the entrance, awed and 
fascinated. I soon gathered that the little meeting was receiving 
some kind of instruction and I had a strong feeling that the 
man in the centre was a real Yogi, a genuine master and not 
merely a book-filled scholar. I cannot explain why I felt that. 

"Suddenly, the teacher turned his face towards the door 
and our eyes met. I then obeyed my inner urge and walked 
into the temple. The teacher greeted me warmly, bade me sit 
down, and said: 'Six months ago I was directed to take you 
as a pupil. Now you have come.' I remembered with a 
pleasant shock that it was exactly six months since I left home 
to begin my eleventh journey. However, it was thus that I met 
my master. Thereafter, I accompanied him wherever he 
travelled. Sometimes he would go into the towns; sometimes 
he would withdraw into secluded forests or lonely jungles. 
With his help I began to make good progress upon the path of 
Yoga, and I was satisfied at last. My teacher was a Yogi of 
great experience, though the path he followed was that of 
Body Control. There are several systems of Yoga; they are 

1 A semi-loincloth. 


very different in their methods and exercises; and the system 
I was taught is the only one which begins with the body 
instead of the mind. I was also taught how to obtain breath 
control. On one occasion I had to fast for forty days, to 
prepare myself to receive one of the Yogic powers. 

"You may imagine how surprised I was one day when my 
teacher sent for me and said: 'The life of total withdrawal 
from the world is not yet for you. Go back to your people and 
live a normal life. You will marry and have one child. At the 
age of thirty-nine certain signs will be given you, and after that 
you will find yourself free to retire from the world again. You 
will then go to the forests and practise solitary meditation until 
you reach the goal which every Yogi seeks. I shall be waiting 
for you and you can return to me.' 

"I obeyed his commands and returned to my native place. 
In due course I married a faithful and devoted woman, who 
bore me one child, exactly as my teacher had predicted. But 
not long after, my wife died. My parents were no longer living, 
so I left my native town and came here to stay in the house of an 
old widow who also comes from there and who knew me as a 
child. She looks after my domestic needs and yet, because the 
years have made her discreet, she permits me to live the 
reserved existence which the rules of our school enjoin." 

Brama ceases talking and I am so impressed by his narrative 
that my questioning tongue is likewise stilled. There are two 
or three minutes of complete silence and then the Yogi rises, 
turns his face homewards, and begins to walk slowly. The 
Brahmin and myself follow him. 

Our path leads through lovely palm groves and through 
pretty clumps of casuarina. The river shines in the bright 
sunlight and an hour or so is passed pleasantly as we stroll along 
its banks. Anon, we begin to enter the haunts of men. Fisher 
folk wade into the water to carry on their work in the ancient 
way. For they fish neither from boats nor from the shore, 
but stand waist high in the stream and hold their nets and 

The beauty of the scene is enhanced by the brightly-plumed 
birds which flutter down to the river. The air is slightly scented 
by a gentle breeze, which blows pleasantly in our faces from the 
direction of the sea. We reach a road where I leave the river 
regretfully. A herd of squeaking pigs passes us. They are 
under the care of a grey-haired, low caste woman, who hits 
unfortunate stragglers with a bamboo stick. 

Brama turns eventually to bid us farewell. I express the hope 


that I may be allowed to see him again. He assents. I then 
venture to ask whether I may have the honour of a visit from 
him. To the great surprise of my Brahmin companion, the 
Yogi readily agrees to call in the evening. 


With the fall of dusk I await Brama's arrival somewhat 
eagerly. Several questions tumble over each other in my mind. 
His brief autobiography has intrigued me, while his strange 
character has puzzled me. 

When the servant announces him, I descend the few steps 
which lead from the veranda and hold up my hands, with palms 
touching, as a token of welcome. The symbolism of this 
common Hindu greeting, which I have soon learnt, will appear 
quaint to the Western mind. For the gesture indicates, "My 
soul and yours are one!" The Hindus delight to receive it 
from a European, which reveals the rarity of that event, though 
it is nothing more than the Indian substitute for shaking hands. 
I want to be accepted as one with friendly intent, and therefore I 
try to respect the Indian customs and conventions, so far as 
I am aware of them. This does not mean that I am going to 
"turn native" - I have no such purpose - but that I believe 
in treating others as I would have them treat me. 

Brama accompanies me into the large room and immediately 
squats cross-legged on the floor. 

"Will you not sit on the divan?" I ask him, through the 
interpreter. "It is well cushioned and extremely comfort- 
able." But no - he prefers the hard floor! And Indian floors 
are laid with tiles, not boards. 

I express my gratitude for his visit and offer him some food, 
which he accepts and eats in silence. 

After the meal I feel that I must tell him something about 
myself, something that will explain my sudden intrusion into 
his existence. And so I enter into a brief account of the forces 
which drew me to India. At its close, Brama emerges from the 
bulwark of aloofness behind which he has so far hidden, and 
puts his hand on my shoulder in a friendly way. 

"That such men should exist in the West it is pleasant to 
hear. You have not wasted your journey, for you shall learn 
much. It is a happy day for me that destiny brought our feet 
to the same spot. Whatever you wish to know, ask, and, so far 
as my oaths permit me, I shall gladly tell you." 


This sounds like good luck, indeed! I ask him about the 
nature of his Yoga system, its history and its aims. 

"Who dare say how old is the system of Body Control which 
I have studied? Our secret texts declare that it was revealed 
by the god Shiva to the sage Gheranda. From his lips it was 
learnt by the sage Marteyanda, who then taught it to others, 
and thus it came down in a continuous line through thousands 
of years; but how many thousands we neither know nor care, 
though we believe that it is the last of the Yoga sciences that 
were born in antiquity. Such was the decline of man even in 
those days, that the gods had to give him a way of spiritual 
salvation which led purely through the body. The Yoga of 
Body Control is little understood except by the adepts who 
have mastered it, and the common people possess the most 
false notions of our ancient science. And since such adepts 
are, alas ! so infrequently to be found to-day, the most foolish 
and distorted practices pass as our system without hindrance 
among the multitude. Go to Benares and you will see a man 
who sits all day and sleeps all night on a bed of sharp spikes; 
and in another place you will see a man who holds one arm 
aloft in the air until it is half withered from disuse and until 
the nails are several inches long. You will be told that they are 
men who practise our system of Yoga, but it is not so. Such 
men bring shame on it, rather. Our aim is not to torture the 
body in foolish ways for the sake of public wonder; these self- 
torturing ascetics are ignorant men who have picked up by 
hearsay, or from some friendly person, a few exercises in the 
forced contortion of the body. But since they know not what 
are our objects, they distort these practices and prolong them 
unnaturally. Yet the common people venerate such fools and 
bestow food and money upon them." 

"But are they to blame? If the real Yogis make themselves 
so scarce and keep their methods so secret, then misunder- 
standings will surely arise," I object. 

Brama draws up his shoulders and a scornful expression 
passes across his mouth. 

"Does a Rajah keep his jewels on the highway for public 
display?" he asks. "No, he hides them in the treasure cham- 
bers deep down in the vaults of his palace. The knowledge of 
our science is one of the greatest treasures a man can have. 
Is he to offer it in the bazaar for all and sundry? Whoever 
desires to grasp this treasure - let him search for it. That is 
the only way, but it is the right way. Our texts enjoin secrecy 
again and again, while our masters will reveal the important 


teachings only to tested disciples who have been faithful to 
them for some years at least. Ours is the most secret of all the 
Yogas; it is full of grave dangers, not only to the disciple him- 
self, but to others. Think you that I am allowed to reveal any 
but its most elementary doctrines to you, or even those without 
extreme discretion?" 

"I see." 

"But there is a branch of our science about which I may talk 
to you more freely. It is that wherein we strengthen the will 
and improve the body of beginners, for only so can they be fit 
to attempt the difficult practices of real Yoga." 

"Ah, that would interest the West!" 

"We have nearly a score of body exercises which strengthen 
the different parts and organs, and remove or prevent certain 
diseases. Some of them are postures which press upon special 
nerve centres; these in turn affect certain organs which are 
not working properly, and help to put them right." 

"Do you use medicines? " 

"Certain herbs, plucked under a waxing moon, are used if 
necessary. We have four kinds of exercises or methods to 
accomplish this early work of putting the body's health in 
good order. First, we learn the art of repose so that the nerves 
may be soothed. For that, there are four suitable exercises. 
Then we learn the 'stretches,' which are exercises copied from 
the natural stretching of healthy animals. Third, we clean the 
body thoroughly by a variety of methods which may seem very 
curious to you, but which are indeed excellent in their effect. 
Lastly, we study the art of breathing and its control." 

I express a desire to receive a demonstration of some exer- 

"There is no dark secret in those which I shall show you 
now," Brama smiles. "Let us begin with the art of repose. 
We can learn something of this matter from the cat. Our 
master places a cat in the circle of his pupils and gets them to 
notice how graceful the animal becomes when in repose. He 
instructs them to observe it carefully when the midday heat 
sends it to sleep. He tells them to watch it closely when it 
crouches in front of a mouse hole. He makes it clear to them 
that the cat sets a perfect example of true rest, and that it 
knows how to store and keep every bit of strength. You 
imagine that you know how to rest, but really you do not. You 
sit in that chair for a while, then move from side to side, then 
fidget, and then sprawl out your legs. Though you do not rise 
from the chair and outwardly seem to be at ease, one thought 


after another races through your brain. Can you call that 
repose? Is it not a way of still being active?" 

"That is a point of view which has never occurred to me," 
I say. 

"Animals know how to rest themselves, but not many men 
have this knowledge. This is because animals are guided by 
instinct, which is the voice of Nature, while men are guided by 
their thoughts. And since men largely lack control over their 
brains, their nerves and bodies are affected as a result; there is 
little real repose for them." 

"What must we do, then?" 

"The first thing you must learn is nothing more than the 
Oriental form of sitting! Chairs may indeed be useful in the 
cold rooms of your Northern countries, but you must learn to 
do without them during the times of exercise which shall pre- 
pare you for Yoga. Our way of sitting is really most restful. 
After working or walking, it gives peace to the entire body. 
The easiest way for you to learn it is to place a small rug or mat 
before the wall of your room; sit upon this as comfortably 
as you can and use the wall to support your back. Or you can 
place the mat in the centre of the room, and then use a couch 
or chair to lean against. After that, bend the legs inwards at 
the knees and cross the feet. There need be no feeling of 
strain and you must not tighten the muscles. So your first 
exercise will be to sit like that and keep your body quite still, 
except for the effort of gentle breathing. And having got into 
that position, you must promise yourself that you will with- 
draw your thoughts from all worldly burdens and affairs; just 
rest your mind on a beautiful object, a picture or a flower." 

I leave my easy chair and drop on the floor, facing Brama, 
assuming the attitude he has just described. It is the position 
of an old-time tailor sitting cross-legged at his work. 

"Yes, you do it easily," observes Brama, "but other 
Europeans may not find it comfortable, because they are not 
accustomed to it. You have one fault - keep your back- 
bone straight, not bent. Let me show you another of our 

Brama proceeds to raise his knees toward his chin, though 
still keeping his feet crossed. This position draws his feet 
away somewhat from the trunk. He clasps his hands around 
the front of his knees. 

"This position is very restful after you have been standing 
on your legs for a long time. Be careful to throw most of the 
body's weight upon the seat. You may practise this for a few 


minutes, whenever you feel very tired. It will soothe important 
nerve centres." 

"It is extremely simple, anyway." 

"We need nothing complicated to learn the art of repose; 
in fact, our easiest exercise gives excellent results. Lie flat on 
your back, legs stretched out side by side. Turn the toes out- 
ward. Let your hands be extended and rest them alongside 
the body. Relax every muscle. Close the eyes. Give your 
whole weight to the floor. You cannot do this exercise properly 
in a bed, as it is important to keep the backbone perfectly flat. 
Use a rug laid upon the floor. In this attitude, Nature's healing 
forces will rest you. We call this the corpse position. By 
practice, you may learn to rest in any of these attitudes for an 
hour, if you wish. They take away tension of muscle and 
soothe nerves. Repose of muscle comes before repose of 

"Really, your exercises seem to consist of nothing more than 
sitting still in some way or other! " 

"Is that nothing? You Westerners thirst to be active, but 
is repose to be despised? Do calm nerves possess no mean- 
ing? Repose is the beginning of all Yoga, but it is not our 
need alone; it is also the need of your world." 

Brama's words are not without justification. 

"Those exercises are enough for this evening," he adds. 
"I must go." 

I thank him for what he has told me, and beg for further 

"To-morrow morning you may find me along the river," 
he replies. 

Gathering his white shawl around his shoulders, he touches 
his palms in farewell and is gone. I am left to ruminate upon 
the interesting conversation which has so abruptly ended. 


I meet the Yogi again on many occasions. At his desire, I 
intercept him on his morning walks, but when I can cajole him 
indoors, he spends his evenings with me. Those evenings 
prove extremely fruitful for me and my quest, because he 
unfolds a more arcane knowledge when the moon displays her- 
self than he is willing to unfold under a high sun. 

A little enquiry enables me to solve a point which has puzzled 
me for a while. I have been under the impression that the 


Hindus are a brown race. Why, then, is Brama's skin dark 
to the point of negroid blackness? 

The answer is that he belongs to an indigenous population 
which appears to be India's first inhabitant. When the 
Aryans - India's earliest invaders - broke through the moun- 
tains in the north-west thousands of years ago and descended 
into the plains, they found this native race of Dravidians and 
drove them into the South. These Dravidians remain a 
separate people to this day, except that they have absorbed the 
religion of their conquerors. The fiery tropic sun has pig- 
mented their skins almost black, which, together with other 
evidences, makes certain ethnologists think that they primally 
arose out of some African stock. As in those early days of their 
undisputed sway over the entire country, the Dravidians still 
wear their hair long and tied in a knot behind their heads, and 
they still speak their primal, half-chanted tongues, of which 
the most important is Tamil. 

Brama makes the confident assertion that the brown invaders 
took their knowledge of Yoga from his own race, just as they 
took certain other things in addition. But scholarly Hindus 
to whom I mention this claim deny it as absurd; I, therefore, 
leave the less important question of origin to settle itself! 

Because I am not writing a thesis around the subject of 
Yogic physical culture, I do not purpose to describe more 
than two or three exercises in the art of adopting and main- 
taining fixed bodily attitudes, which appears to be so prominent 
a feature of the Yoga of Body Control. The twenty or more 
postural methods which Brama demonstrates, either in a palm 
fringed grove or in my more prosaic quarters, involve strangely 
contorted attitudes, and, to Western eyes at least, must appear 
either ludicrous or impossible, or both. Some of them require 
balancing on both knees with feet upturned, or balancing the 
entire weight of the body upon the tips of one's fingers; others 
take the arms behind the back and somehow bring the hands to 
the front again on opposite sides; others again tie up all the 
limbs in a complicated knot; still others put the legs round the 
neck or over the shoulders, in acrobatic manner; while a 
fifth group twist and turn the trunk in the queerest imaginable 
style. It is while watching Brama perform some of these feats 
that I begin to perceive how difficult will this art of Yoga be. 
"How many of these exercises comprise your system?' 
I enquire. 

"There are eighty-four postures in the Yoga of Body 
Control," replies Brama, "though I do not know more than 


sixty-four at present." Even as he speaks he practises one of 
these postures and sits in it as comfortably as I sit in a chair. 
Indeed, he tells me that this is his favourite posture. It is not 
a difficult one, this, but it does seem uncomfortable. His 
left foot is tucked into the groin and the heel of the other foot 
is placed under the base of the body, the right leg being doubled 
back so as to carry most of the weight, 

"What is the use of such a posture? " I ask again. 

" I f a Yogi enters into it and then practises a certain breathing 
exercise, he will become more youthful." 

"And that breathing exercise ? " 

"I am not permitted to reveal it to you." 

"What is the object of all these postures, then?" 

"The mere fact of sitting or standing for regular periods 
in certain fixed postures may seem of small importance in 
your eyes. But the concentration of attention and will power 
upon the chosen posture is so intense - if success is to be 
gained - that sleeping forces awaken within the Yogi. Those 
forces belong to the secret realms of Nature; therefore they 
are seldom fully aroused until our breathing exercises are also 
practised, for the breath possesses deep powers. Though the 
awakening of such forces is our real aim, no less than a score 
of our exercises are capable of being used for benefiting one's 
health or to remove certain diseases; while others will drive 
impurities out of the body. Is this not of great use? Still 
other postures are intended to assist our efforts to get control 
over the mind and soul, for it is a truth that the body influences 
thought no less than thought influences the body. In the 
advanced stages of Yoga, when we may be plunged for hours 
in meditation, the proper posture of the body not only enables 
the mind to remain undistracted in its efforts, but actually 
assists its purpose. Add to all these things the tremendous 
gain in will power which comes to the man who perseveres in 
these difficult exercises, and you may see what virtues there are 
in our methods." 

"But why all this twisting and turning?" I object. 

"Because there are many nerve-centres scattered throughout 
the body, and each posture affects a different centre. Through 
the nerves we can influence either the organs of the body or 
the thoughts in the brain. Those twists enable us to reach 
nerve centres which otherwise might remain untouched." 

"I see." The basis of this Yogic physical culture begins to 
shape itself a little more clearly in my mind. It is interesting 
to ascertain how it compares with the basic principles of our 


European and American systems. I tell Brama about the 
existence of the latter. 

"I do not know your Western systems, but I have seen white 
soldiers being drilled at the great camp near Madras. By 
watching them I have understood what their instructors 
wished to do. Strengthening the muscles seems to have been 
their first object, because you Westerners find your highest 
virtues in being bodily active. Therefore, you make much use 
of the limbs in a most energetic manner, repeating those 
movements again and again. You spend energy vigorously, 
so that you may build up the muscles and receive greater 
strength in return. That is a good thing to do in the cold 
countries of the North, doubtless." 

"What is the chief difference between the methods, as you 
see it?" 

"Our Yoga exercises are really poses and require no further 
movements after the pose has been taken up. Instead of seeking 
more energy with which to be active, we seek to increase the 
power of endurance. You see, we believe that though the 
development of the muscles may be useful, it is the power 
which is behind them that is of greater value. Thus, if I tell 
you that standing on your shoulders in a particular way will 
wash the brain with blood, soothe the nerves and remove 
certain weaknesses, you as a Westerner would probably do the 
exercise for a moment and repeat it several times with a rush. 
You may strengthen the muscles which are called into action 
by this exercise, but you would get little of the benefits which 
a Yogi gets by doing it in his own way." 
"And what may that be?" 

"He will do it slowly, with deliberation, and then maintain 
the position as steadily as he can for some minutes. Let me 
show you this All-Body posture, as we call it." 

Brama lies flat upon his back, hands at sides and legs to- 
gether. He raises his legs into the air, keeping the knees quite 
straight, until they have attained about two-thirds of a right 
angle with the floor. He supports his back with his hands, 
resting the elbows on the floor. The body is then tilted com- 
pletely upward, his trunk and hips becoming vertical. The 
chest is brought forward to touch the chin. The hands form 
a bracket which supports the trunk. The weight of the body is 
supported by the shoulders and the back of the neck and head. 
After maintaining this upside down position for about five 
minutes, the Yogi gets up and explains its value. 
"This posture brings blood flowing down to the brain by its 


own weight for a few minutes. In the ordinary position the 
blood has to be forced upwards by the pumping action of the 
heart. The difference between the two ways is shown by the 
soothing effect of the posture upon the brain and nerves. For 
men who work with their minds, thinkers and students, the 
quiet practice of this all-body posture brings quick relief when 
their brains are tired. This is not its only virtue. It strengthens 
the sex organs. But these benefits come only if the exercise is 
done in our way and not in your hasty Western manner." 

"If I am not mistaken, you mean that the Yoga attitudes 
keep the body fixed in a state of poised stillness, whereas our 
Western exercises violently agitate it?" 

"Even so," agrees Brama. 

A further exercise which I select from Brama's repertory 
as being more within the compass of Western limbs, is one 
which should quickly yield to patience and practice. In this 
posture, the Yogi sits with extended legs, raises both arms over 
his head and crooks the first fingers. He bends his trunk for- 
ward, exhaling the breath while doing so, and grasps the big 
toes of his feet inside the hooked fingers. The right toe is 
caught by the right index finger, and so on. Then he slowly 
bends his head forward until it falls between his outstretched 
arms and the forehead lies flat against his thighs. He keeps 
this curious position for a little while and then gradually returns 
to a normal attitude. 

"Do not try to do this all at once," he warns me. "Try to 
bring the head a little closer to the knees little by little only; 
even if it takes a few weeks to succeed in this posture, once you 
have mastered it, it will be yours for years." 

I learn that this exercise strengthens the spine, as indeed one 
might expect it to do; that it removes nervous troubles caused 
through spinal weakness; and that it will work wonders with 
the blood circulation. 

In the next posture, Brama sits on the floor and then doubles 
his legs up underneath him; thus the soles of his feet come 
under the base of his body. He drops the trunk backward 
until his shoulders touch the floor. He crosses his arms under- 
neath the back of the head, which is then cushioned upon them. 
Each hand now grasps the opposite shoulder joint. He remains 
in this not unshapely pose for some minutes. On emerging 
from it, he explains that nerve centres situate in the neck and 
shoulders, as well as in the legs, are favourably affected by the 
exercise; and that even the chest is benefited. 

The average Englishman is so apt to regard the average 


Indian as a weakling, as an enervated product of tropic sun and 
under-feeding, that it surprises one to learn that such a care- 
fully thought out native system of physical culture has existed 
in India since antiquity. If our Western systems possess such 
a usefulness that no one would dream of disputing their value 
at this day, this is not to say that they are consequently com- 
plete and that they have pronounced the last word on bodily 
development, health preservation and the eradication of disease. 
Perhaps if the West, with its thorough methods of scientifically 
directed research, would pick some dust-covered practices out 
of the traditional teaching of Yoga, we might arrive at a com- 
pleter knowledge of our bodies and a fuller regime for the 
healthy life. 

Yet I know that perhaps not more than a round dozen of the 
Yoga postures are easy enough to be worth our time and 
trouble. The seventy odd postures which compose the re- 
mainder of the system are hardly likely to yield to any except 
the most enthusiastic, and that only if they are young enough to 
have flexible limbs and supple bodies. 

Brama himself admits: 

"I have practised hard each day for twelve years; only in 
this way could I master the sixty-four postures which I know. 
And then I was fortunate enough to begin while young, for a 
man of mature years could not even attempt these postures 
without feeling much pain. Bone, muscle and flesh settle down 
into stiffened positions in a grown man and can be disturbed 
only with difficulty and with pain. Yet even then it is remark- 
able how the postures can be conquered by continued efforts." 

I do not doubt Brama's assertion that anyone may master 
these exercises by persistent practice, only the slow breaking-in 
of limbs, joints and muscles to the novel positions into which 
they are introduced must necessarily be such a dilatory process 
as to embrace the years. He has the advantage of beginning 
these postures when hardly out of his 'teens, and the value of 
this early beginning cannot be over-estimated. Just as success- 
ful acrobats are usually those who have been trained in child- 
hood, so is it obvious that successful Yogis of the school of 
Body Control must start their training before the growing 
period ends, say before twenty-five. I certainly do not know 
how it is possible for any adult European to adventure with the 
scores of intricate postures which comprise most of their 
system without breaking a bone or two in the undertaking. 
When I argue this with Brama, he grants only a partial agree- 
ment and stubbornly maintains that continued efforts may 


succeed in many cases, though not in all. But he agrees that 
Europeans may have a harder task. 

"We Orientals have the advantage of having learnt to sit 
with folded legs from childhood. Can a European bend his 
legs and sit steadily for two hours without pain? Yet the cross- 
ing of the legs with intertwined ankles forms but the beginning 
of several of our postures. We look upon it as one of the best. 
Shall I show it?" 

Thereupon Brama assumes that position which has been 
made familiar to the Western world by the numerous pictures 
and images of the Buddha. Sitting perfectly erect, he folds the 
right leg so as to tuck the foot into the left groin. Then he 
folds the other leg and brings his left foot across to the right 
thigh, where its heel touches the lower corner of the abdomen. 
The soles of his feet are turned up. It is an artistic and 
balanced pose; the thought occurs to me that such an attractive 
posture may be worth trying. 

I try to imitate him and am rewarded for my labours with 
excruciating pains in the ankles. I complain that I cannot 
achieve this position even for a single moment. How pic- 
turesquely exotic has this Buddha seat seemed to me in the 
past, when I have seen it exemplified in some attractive bronze 
figure which is placed in the window of a curio shop! But 
how unnatural does this twisting of the lower limbs now seem 
to me in India, when I attempt to exemplify it in my own 
person! Brama's smiling encouragement fails to reassure me. 
I tell him that I must postpone my efforts. 

"Your joints are stiff," he observes. "Rub a little oil into 
the ankles and knees before you practise it again. You are so 
accustomed to sitting in chairs that the posture will put some 
strain on your limbs. A little practice every day will slowly 
remove the difficulty." 

"I doubt whether I could ever do it." 

"Say not that it is impossible. It will take you a long time, 
but you shall surely master it. Success will take you by sur- 
prise one day; it comes suddenly." 1 

"It is so painful that it feels like a new torture! " 2 

"But the pain will lessen, and though it may take a much 

1 I state the fact for what it is worth that, lured by the attractiveness 
of the Buddha position, I succeeded, after sporadic and painful 
efforts, in achieving it eight months later. Thereafter the difficulty 

2 It is necessary to warn amateur dabblers in these Yoga posturings 
against the grave risks they incur. A surgeon to whom I described 
them, said that a strained ankle or a broken tendon are likely injuries. 


longer time than it will to reach success, you will reach a point 
where the posture brings no pain with it." 
"But is it worth while for me to attempt it?" 
"Assuredly. The Lotus posture - for that is what we name 
it - is so important that none of our novices are permitted to 
miss it, however much he is allowed to avoid other postures. 
It is the chief attitude in which advanced Yogis perform their 
meditations. One reason is that it gives a solid base to the 
body, which is unlikely to topple over should the Yogi pass 
into a deep trance - an event which sometimes occurs un- 
expectedly, though the adepts can pass into trance at will. 
You see, the Lotus posture locks the feet together and holds 
the body quiet and steady. A restless and irritated body will 
disturb the mind, but in the Lotus posture one feels poised and 
self-controlled. In this attitude it becomes easier to win the 
power of mind concentration, which is so greatly prized 
among us. Lastly, we practise our breathing exercises mostly 
when sitting in this posture, for the combination arouses the 
spirit-fire which sleeps in the body. When this unseeable fire 
awakens, all the blood in the body is redistributed afresh, while 
the nerve force is sent with great keenness to certain important 

With this explanation I remain content and bring our talk of 
postures to a close. For Brama has earlier thrown himself into 
a large number of fearful contortions and convulsive pos- 
turings for my edification, just to show me something of his 
mastery over flesh and bone. What Westerner has the patience 
to go through all these complicated exercises and master them? 
What Westerner has even the time to do so? 



Brama expresses a wish that I shall visit his dwelling. 
He tells me that he does not actually stay in the house, 
but has erected a roomy hut in the garden at the rear 
so as to keep his freedom and preserve his independence. 

Accordingly - and I must confess, with some eagerness - I 
call at the house one afternoon. The building stands in a dusty 
street, which bears a desolate and neglected air. I stand for a 
moment outside the ancient whitewashed structure and survey 
its wooden upper storey, whose projecting window is so remi- 
niscent of our medieval European houses. I push open the 
heavy old door which confronts me, an act which sends a 
rattling echo through the rooms and passages. 

An old woman, whose motherly smile stretches broadly 
across her face, appears almost at once and bows repeatedly 
before me. She leads me through a long darkened passage 
until we emerge through a kitchen into the back garden. 

The first thing I notice is a spreading peepul tree and then, 
under the protective shade of its branches, an old fashioned 
well. The woman guides me to a hut on the other side of the 
well and close enough to it to receive some of the tree's shade. 
It is lightly built of bamboo posts, thin wooden cross beams 
and a thatched grass roof. 

The dame, whose face is as black as Brama's, becomes 
visibly excited and bursts out into a series of trembling Tamil 
sentences, apparently addressed to the hut. A musical voice 
answers from within, the door slowly opens, the Yogi appears 
and then affectionately draws me into his simple hermitage. 
He omits to close the door. The widow remains in the entrance 
for the next few minutes, her eyes glued upon me, her face 
exuding indescribable happiness. 

I find myself in a plain room. A low cushionless divan 
stands along the farther wall and a rudely made wooden 
bench, which is littered with papers, fills a corner. A heavily 



chased brass water-pot hangs by a cord from one of the roof 
beams. The floor is covered with a large piece of matting. 

"Seat yourself!" says Brama, waving a hand towards the 
floor. "We have no chair to offer you; I am sorry." 

We all squat around the mat - Brama, myself, and a young 
student-teacher who has attached himself to me and is now 
acting as interpreter. Within a few minutes the old widow 
departs, only to return later with a pot of tea, which is served 
upon the mat in lieu of a table. She departs again and re- 
appears with biscuits, oranges and plantain fruits, which are 
heaped upon brass dishes. 

Before we begin to take these pleasant refreshments, Brama 
produces a garland of yellow marigolds and hangs it around 
my neck. I am astonished and protest strongly, for I know 
that this Indian custom is usually reserved for distinguished 
persons and I have never classed myself in that sublime 

"But, brother - ," he pleads smilingly. "You are the first 
European to visit my abode and the first to become my friend. 
I must express my delight, and the delight of this lady here, 
by honouring you in this way" 

My further protests prove of no avail. I have perforce to 
sit on the floor with a wreath of marigolds draped ceremoni- 
ously over my jacket. I am indeed glad that Europe is suffici- 
ently far away for none of my friends to notice this odd sight 
and laugh at me! 

We drink our tea, eat the fruit and chat pleasantly for a 
while. Brama informs me that he built the hut and made the 
rude furniture with his own hands. The sight of the papers 
on the corner bench arouse my curiosity, and I beg him to tell 
me their raison d'etre. For I observe that the papers are all of 
a pink colour and that they have been written on in green ink. 
Brama picks up a handful, which I perceive are written in 
quaint characters easily recognizable as Tamil. The student- 
teacher examines the documents but finds them hard to read 
and harder to understand. He informs me that they are written 
in an obsolete form of Tamil which was the literary form of 
early centuries, but is nowadays understood only by few 
persons. He adds that the great classics of Tamil philosophy 
and literature are unfortunately written in this archaic form of 
language, which is called high Tamil, and which presents more 
difficulties for those only familiar with the modern living 
vernacular than medieval English presents to the average 
present-day English-knowing person. 


"These papers are written by me mostly at night," Brama 
explains. "Some of them are accounts of my Yoga experi- 
ences written in verse, and some are lengthy poems where I 
let my heart speak its religion. There are a few young men who 
call themselves my pupils, who often come here to read these 
writings aloud." 

Brama picks up an artistic-looking document, which consists 
of a few pages of pink paper written on in red and green 
inks and tied with a green ribbon, and smilingly presents it 
to me. 

"I have written this especially for you," he declares. 

The young interpreter finds it to be a poem of eighty-four 
lines. It opens and closes with a mention of my name, but 
beyond this the young man can hardly travel. He deciphers 
occasional words and tells me that the poem evidently contains 
some kind of personal message, but it is written in such high 
Tamil that he is not. competent to render a proper translation 
of it. However, I am extremely pleased to receive this unex- 
pected gift, especially as it is an expression of the Yogi's good 

After the celebrations of my visit are finally over, the old 
lady departs and we settle down to serious talk. I plunge anew 
into that matter of breathing which seems to play so important 
a part in Yoga, and which is wrapped in such secrecy. Brama 
regrets that he can show me no further exercises for the present, 
but he is willing to tell me a little more of his theories. 

"Nature has measured out 21,600 breath-rhythms to every 
man, which he must use up daily and nightly from one sunrise 
till the next. Quick, noisy and tumultuous breathing exceeds 
this measure and therefore shortens one's life. Slow, deep and 
quiet breathing economizes this allowance, and so lengthens 
life. Every breath which is saved goes to build up a great 
reserve, and out of this reserve a man can draw extra years for 
living. Yogis do not take so many breaths as other men; nor 
do they need to for - but, alas! how can I explain further 
without transgressing my oaths?" 

This reserve of the Yogi tantalizes me. Is it possible that a 
knowledge which is hidden away with so much pains cannot 
have something of real worth in it? If that is really the case, 
then one can understand why these strange men cover up their 
tracks and conceal the treasure of their teachings in order 
to ward off the superficially curious, the mentally unready 
and perhaps the spiritually unworthy. Is it likely that I, 
too, may come within one of these latter classifications and 


eventually leave the country with little more than my trouble 
for reward? 

But Brama is speaking again: 

"Have not our masters the keys to the powers of breath? 
They know how close is the connection between the blood and 
the breath; they understand how the mind, too, follows the 
path of the breath; and they have the secret of how it is possible 
to awaken awareness of the soul through workings of the breath 
and thought. Shall I not say that breath is but the expression 
in this world of a subtler force, which is the real sustainer of the 
body? It is this force which hides in the vital organs, though 
it is unseeable. When it leaves the body the breathing stops 
in obedience and death is the result. But through the control 
of breath it is possible to get some control over this unseeable 
current. But though we bring our body under extreme 
control - even to the point of controlling the beats of the heart - 
do you think that our ancient sages had only the body and its 
powers in view when they first taught our system?" 

Whatever I think about the ancient sages and their purpose, 
disappears in the intense curiosity which is suddenly aroused in 
my mind. 

"You can control the working of your heart?" I exclaim 
in surprise. 

"My self-acting organs, the heart, the stomach and the 
kidney, have been brought to some degree of obedience," he 
answers quietly, without a trace of boastfulness. 

"How do you do that?" 

"One gains the power by practising certain combinations of 
posture, breathing and will-power exercises. Of course, they 
belong to the advanced degrees of Yoga. They are so difficult 
that few persons can ever do them. Through these practices 
I have conquered somewhat the muscles which work the heart; 
and through the heart muscles, I have been able to go on and 
conquer the other organs." 

"This is indeed extraordinary!" 

"You think so? Place your hand upon my chest, just 
over the heart, and keep it there." With that, Brama 
changes his position, takes up a curious posture, and closes 
his eyes. 

I obey his command and then wait patiently to see what is 
going to happen. For some minutes he remains as steady as 
a rock, and almost as motionless. Then the beating of his heart 
begins to diminish gradually. I am startled to feel it become 
slower and slower. A thrill of eerieness spreads over my nerves 


as I distinctly feel his heart completely stop its rhythmic 
functioning. The pause lasts for about seven anxious seconds. 

I try to pretend that I am hallucinated, but my nervousness 
is such that I know the attempt is useless. As the organ returns 
to life from its seeming death, relief seizes me. The beats 
begin to quicken and normality is safely reached at length. 

The Yogi does not emerge from his motionless self-absorption 
till some minutes later. He slowly opens his eyes and asks: 

"Did you feel the heart stop? " 

"Yes. Most distinctly." I am certain that there was no 
hallucination about the feat. What other strange Yogi tricks 
can Brama play with his internal mechanism, I wonder? 

As if in answer to my unspoken thought, Brama says: 

"It is nothing compared with what my master can achieve. 
Sever one of his arteries, and he is able to control the flow of 
blood; yes, even to stop it! I, too, have brought my blood 
under some measure of control, but I cannot do that." 

" Can you show me that control? " 

He requests me to take his wrist and grip it where I can feel 
the flow of blood through his artery. I do so. 

Within two or three minutes I become aware that the curious 
rhythm which beats under my thumb is lessening. Soon it 
comes to a definite halt. Brama has brought his pulse to a 

I anxiously await the resumption of circulation in his artery. 
A minute passes but nothing occurs. A second minute, during 
which I am acutely conscious of each second, likewise ticks 
itself away in my watch. The third minute is equally fruitless. 
Not until half-way through the fourth minute do I become 
conscious of a faint return to activity within the artery. The 
tension is relieved. Before long, the pulse beats at its normal 

"How strange!" I exclaim involuntarily. 

"It is nothing," he modestly replies. 

"This seems to be a day of strange feats, so will you not 
show me another?" 

Brama hesitates. 

"Only one more," he says at length, " and then you must 
be satisfied." 

He looks thoughtfully at the floor and then announces: 

"I shall stop the breath!" 

"But then you will surely die!" I exclaim nervously. 

He laughs but ignores the remark. 

"Now hold your hand flat under my nostrils." 


I obey him hesitantly. The warm caress of exhaled air 
touches and retouches the skin of my hand. Brama closes his 
eyes; his body becomes statuesque in its steadiness. He 
appears to fall into a kind of trance. I wait, continuing to hold 
the back of my hand immediately under his nose. He remains 
as still and as unresponsive as a graven idol. Very slowly, very 
evenly, the caress of his breath begins to diminish. Ultimately 
it completely ceases. 

I watch his nostrils and lips; I examine his shoulders and 
chest; but in no single case can I discover any external evidence 
of respiration. I know that these tests are not final and wish 
to make a more exhaustive test, but how? My brain works 

There is no hand-mirror in the room, but I find an excellent 
substitute in a small polished brass dish. I hold the dish 
under his nostrils for a while, and again in front of his lips. 
Its shining surface remains unmarred by any dullness or 

It seems impossible to believe that in this quiet conventional 
house near a quiet conventional city, I have established contact 
with something significant, something that Western science 
may one day be forced to recognize against its will. But the 
evidence is there, and it is indubitable. Yoga is really more 
than a worthless myth. 

When Brama ultimately emerges from his trance-like condi- 
tion, he seems a little tired. 

"Are you satisfied? " he asks, with a fatigued smile. 

"I am more than satisfied! But I am at a loss to understand 
in what way you can do it." 

"It is forbidden me to explain. The restraint of breath is 
a practice which is part of advanced Yoga. To a white man 
it may seem a foolish thing to strive for, yet to us it is of much 

"But we have always been taught that man cannot live 
without breathing. Surely that is not a foolish idea?" 

"It is not foolish; nevertheless it is not true. I can hold 
my breath for two hours, if I wish. Many times I have done 
that, but I am not yet dead, you see ! " Brama smiles. 

"I am puzzled. If you are not permitted to explain, perhaps 
you can throw a little light upon the theory behind your 

"Very well. There is a lesson we can draw from watching 
certain animals, which is a favoured method of instruction with 
my master. An elephant breathes much more slowly than a 


monkey, yet it lives much longer. Some of the large serpents 
breathe far more slowly than a dog, yet they live far longer. 
Thus, creatures exist which show that slowness of breathing 
may possibly prolong age. If you can follow me so far, the 
next step will be easier for you to grasp. Now, in the Himalayas, 
there are bats which go into winter sleep. They hang suspended 
in the mountain caverns for weeks, yet they do not draw a single 
breath until they again awaken. The Himalayan bears, too, 
will sometimes sink into trance throughout the winter, their 
bodies apparently without life. In deep burrows of the 
Himalayas, when food cannot be found during the winter, there 
are hedgehogs which pass into sleep for some months, a sleep 
in which breathing is suspended. If these animals cease to 
breathe for a time, and yet live, why should not human beings 
be able to do the same?" 

His statement of curious facts is interesting, but it is not 
so convincing as his demonstration. The common notion that 
breathing is an essential function in every condition of life is 
not to be thrown aside at a few minutes' notice. 

"We Westerners will always find it difficult to understand 
how life can continue in a body unless breathing continues 

"Life always continues," he answers cryptically. "Death 
is but a habit of the body." 

"But surely you cannot mean that it may be possible to 
conquer death?" I enquire incredulously. 

Brama looks at me in a strange manner. 

"Why not?" There is a tense pause. His eyes search me, 
but they do it in a kindly way. 

"Because there are possibilities in you, I shall tell you one 
of our old secrets. But I must first demand your agreement 
to one condition." 

"And that ?" 

"You shall not attempt to practise any breathing exercise 
as an experiment, except those which I may teach you 

"I agree." 

"Keep your word, then. Now you have hitherto believed 
that the complete stoppage of breathing brings death?" 


"Is it not reasonable to believe, also, that the complete 
holding of the breath within one's body keeps life within us 
for so long as the breath is held, at least?" 

"Well ?" 


"We claim no more than that. We say that an adept in 
breath control, who can completely retain his breath at will, 
thereby retains his life current. Do you grasp that?" 

"I think so." 

"Imagine, now, an adept in Yoga who can keep the locked 
breath, not merely for a few minutes as a curiosity, but for 
weeks, for months and even for years. Since you admit that 
where there is breath there must be life, do you not see how 
the prospect of prolonged life opens up for man?" 

I am dumb. How can I dismiss this assertion as prepos- 
terous? Yet how can I accept it? Does it not recall to memory 
the idle dreams of our European alchemists of medieval times, 
dreamers who sought an elixir of life, but who succumbed to the 
sickle of death one by one? But if Brama is not self-deceived, 
why should he seek to deceive me. He has not sought my 
company and he makes no effort to acquire disciples. 

A strange fear touches my brain. What if he is merely mad? 
No - he seems so sensible and rational in other matters. Would 
it not be better to regard him as mistaken? Yet something in 
me doubts even that conclusion. I am bewildered. 

"Can I not convince you?" He speaks again. "Have you 
not heard the story of the faqueer who was buried by Ranjeet 
Singh in a vault at Lahore? The burial of the faqueer took 
place in the presence of English army officers, while the last 
of the Sikh kings watched it himself. The living tomb was 
guarded by soldiers for six weeks, but the faqueer emerged 
healthy and alive. Enquire into this story, for I have been told 
that it is written somewhere in the records of your Government. 
This faqueer had brought his breathing under great mastery 
and could stop it at will without danger of dying. Yet he was 
not even an adept in Yoga, for I have heard from an old man 
who knew him when he was alive that his character was not 
good. His name was Haridas and he lived in the North. If 
this man could live in an airless space for such a long time 
without breathing, how much more can be done by the true 
masters of Yoga, who practise in secret and will not perform 
these marvels for gold?" 

A pregnant silence follows our conversation. 

"There exist other strange powers which can be acquired 

1 I have since verified this reference and find that the actual 
episode occurred in 1837 at Lahore. The faqueer was buried in the 
presence of King Ranjit Singh, Sir Claude Wade, Dr. Honigberger, 
and others. A guard of Sikh soldiers watched the grave day and 
night to prevent fraud. The faqueer was dug up alive forty days 
later. Fuller particulars can be found in the archives at Calcutta. 


by the way of our Yoga, but who, in these degenerate days, 
will pay the heavy price to obtain them?" 

There is another pause. 

"We who live and work in the everyday world have sufficient 
to do without seeking such powers," I venture, in defence of 
my epoch. 

"Yes," agrees Brama, "this path of Body Control is only 
for the few. Therefore the teachers of our science have kept 
it a silent secret through the centuries. It is not often that 
they seek after pupils; pupils must seek after them." 


The next time we meet, Brama visits my quarters. It is 
evening and we soon adjourn for dinner. After the meal and 
a short rest, we go out on the moonlit veranda where I plant 
myself in a deck chair, while the Yogi finds a mat on the floor 
more comfortable. 

For several minutes we silently enjoy the bright radiance of 
the full moon. 

As I have not forgotten the astonishing events of our last 
meeting, it is not long before I broach anew this incredible 
matter of men who snap their fingers at death. 

"Why not?" Brama asks his favourite question. "There 
is an adept in our Yoga of Body Control who is hidden among 
the Neilgherry Hills, here in the South. He never stirs from 
his retreat. In the North, there lives another whose home is 
a cave upon the snowy Himalayas. These men you cannot 
meet, for they disdain this world, yet their existence is a 
tradition among us and we are told that they have extended 
their lives to hundreds of years." 

"You really believe this?" I exclaim in deferential 

"Without a doubt! Have I not the visible example of my 
own master?" 

A question which has been on my mind for many days, 
presses itself to the fore again. Hitherto I have hesitated in 
voicing it, but now that our friendship has come so close I 
decide to give the query a bold outlet. I look earnestly at the 
Yogi and ask him: 

"Brama, who is your master?" 

For a while he returns my gaze, but yields no answer. He 
looks at me hesitatingly. 


When he speaks, his voice is slow and grave: 

"He is known to his Southern disciples as Yerumbu Swami, 
meaning The Ant Teacher." 

"What a curious name! " I exclaim involuntarily. 

"My master always carries a bag of rice powder from which 
he feeds the ants wherever he may be. But in the North and 
among the Himalayan villages where he sometimes stays, he 
bears another name." 

"Is he, then, perfect in your Yoga of Body Control?" 

"Even so." 

"And you believe that he has lived ?" 

"I believe that he is over four hundred years old!" Brama 
quietly finishes the sentence for me. 

There is a tense pause. 

I stare at him in bewilderment. 

"Many a time he has described to me what happened during 
the reigns of the Moghul Emperors," supplements the Yogi. 
"And he has told me stories of the days when your English 
India Company first came to Madras." 

Sceptical Western ears are unable to accept these statements. 

"But any child who has read a history book could tell you 
such things," I counter. 

Brama ignores my remark. He goes on: 

"My master remembers clearly the first battle of Panipat 1 
and he has not forgotten the days of the battle of Plassey. 2 
I recollect how he once referred to a brother disciple, one 
Beshudananda, as a mere child of eighty years!" 

In the clear moonlight I notice that Brama's swarthy, broad- 
nosed countenance remains peculiarly unmoved while he 
utters these strange words. How can my brain, nurtured in 
the strict methods of inquiry which modern science has called 
forth, entertain such assertions? After all, Brama is a Hindu 
and must possess some of the legend-swallowing ability of his 
people. It is useless to contend with him; I shall remain silent. 

The Yogi continues: 

"For more than eleven years my master was spiritual 
adviser to one of the old Maharajahs of Nepal, the State which 
lies between India and Tibet. There he is known and loved 
by some of the village people, who dwell among the Himalayan 

1 In 1526, the invading army of Baber, a descendant of the ruthless 
Tamerlane, and the forces of the King of Agra met in conflict at 

2 This famous battle, which opened the British path to power in 
India, occurred in 1757. 


mountains. They revere him as a god when he visits them, 
yet he talks to them in a kindly way, in the manner of a father 
talking to his children. He gives no heed to caste rules, and he 
eats neither fish nor meat" 

"How is it possible for a man to live so long?" My thoughts 
involuntarily voice themselves again. 

Brama looks away, seems to forget my presence. 

"There are three ways in which this is possible. The first is 
to practise all the postures, all the breathing exercises and all the 
secret exercises which comprise our system of Body Control. 
This practice must take place until one is perfect, which can 
be done only under a proper master who can show you in his 
own body what he teaches. The second way is to partake 
regularly of some rare herbs which are known only to the adepts 
who have studied this matter. These adepts carry the herbs 
secretly, or hide them in their robes when travelling. When 
the time arrives for the final disappearance of such an adept, 
he selects a worthy disciple, makes the secret known to him, 
and presents him with the herbs. To none else are they 
given. The third way is not easy to explain." Brama stops 

"Will you not try?" I urge. 

"It is possible that you will laugh at my words." 

I assure him that, on the contrary, I shall treat his explanation 
with due respect. 

"Very well. There exists a tiny hole inside the brain of 
man. 1 Within this hole dwells the soul. There is also a kind of 
valve which protects this hole. At the bottom of the spine 
there comes into being the unseeable life-current which I have 
mentioned to you more than once. The constant loss of this 
current causes the body to grow old, but its control fills the 
flesh with new life and perpetuates it. When a man has 
conquered himself, he can begin to get this control by certain 
practices which are known only to advanced Yogis of our 
school. And when he can withdraw this life-current up his 
spine, he may then try to concentrate it into the hole in the 
brain. But, unless he finds a master who will assist him to 
open the protecting valve, he cannot succeed. If he finds a 
master who is willing to do this, then the unseeable current 
will enter the hole and turn into the Nectar of Longevity, as 
we name it. It is no easy task, for ruin waits in ambush for the 
man who attempts it alone. But the man who succeeds can 

1 It is possible that Brama refers to the cavity caused by the four 
inter-communicating ventricles of the brain, but I am not sure. 


induce a condition similar to death whenever he pleases, and 
so obtains the victor's power when real death seeks him out. 
In fact, he can choose the exact moment of his death at any 
time, and to the severest examination he will appear to have 
died naturally. One who has all these three methods at his 
command can live for many hundred years. So have I been 
taught. Even when he dies, the worms will refrain from 
attacking his body. A century later his flesh will still be free 
from decay." 

I thank Brama for his explanation, but I wonder. I am 
profoundly interested, but I am not convinced. Anatomy 
does not know this current of which he talks, and it has 
certainly never known his Nectar. Are these stories of physio- 
logical marvels mere superstitious misunderstandings? With 
them one returns to the age of fable, the ancient days of long- 
lived wizards and magicians who hold the elixir of life. Yet 
the demonstrations of breath and blood control which Brama 
has given me provide some assurance that Yogic powers are 
not mere chimeras, that these powers can undoubtedly be 
responsible for the performance of feats which must appear 
fabulous to the uninitiated. Beyond this point I find it 
difficult to walk with him. 1 

I remain respectfully silent, careful not to allow my intellectual 
struggles betray themselves on my face. 

"Such powers as these would be much desired by men who 
are nearing the grave," Brama resumes, "but forget not that 
the way to them is full of danger. Can you wonder that our 
masters say of these exercises: 'Keep them as secret as you 
would keep a box of diamonds.'" 

"So you are unlikely to reveal them to me?" 

"Those who wish to become adepts should first learn to 
walk before they try to run? " he replies, with a faint smile. 

"A last question, Brama." 

The Yogi nods. 

"Where is your master now living?" 

"He has entered a temple retreat in the mountains of Nepal, 
on the yonder side of the Terai jungle." 

1 The entire conversation, with its amazing statements and cool 
assertions, now seems like a fantastic dream. My attempt to transfer 
it to paper is a task which, more than once, makes me contemplate 
omitting it completely from this book as I have perforce to omit many 
other conversations. I do not doubt but that it will cause many 
superior European lips to curl in contempt of Asiatic superstition. 
If I finally let it pass into publication, it is at the bidding of other 
judgments than mine. 


"Is he likely to return to the plains again?" 
"Who can foretell his movements? He may remain in 
Nepal for many years, or he may begin his travels again. He 
likes Nepal best because our school of Yoga flourishes better 
there than in India. You see, even the teaching of Body 
Control differs with different schools. And ours is the Tantra 
school, which is better understood in the atmosphere of Nepal 
than among the Hindus." 

Brama reverts to silence. I guess that he is dwelling in 
devoted thought upon this enigmatic figure of his master. 
Ah ! if these things I have heard to-night are more real than 
legendary, then, indeed, one may catch a glimpse of what is 
around the corner - Man, Ageless and Immortal! 


If I do not hurry my pen, this chapter will never be brought 
to a close. Therefore I shall endeavour to transfix the last 
memorable scene of my association with the Yogi of the five 

The Indian night comes quickly on the heels of evening; 
there are no lingering sunsets as in Europe. And as the swift 
dusk begins to descend on his garden hut, Brama lights an oil 
lantern and suspends it by a cord from the roof. We settle 
down anew. 

The old widow discreetly slips away and leaves me alone 
with the Yogi and the student-teacher who translates our 
words. The odour of burning incense touches the room with 
a mystical atmosphere. 

This evening sad thoughts of parting steal over me. I try 
to brush them off, but fail. I cannot clearly tell this man, 
through the irritating barrier of speaking through a third person, 
what is in my heart. How far the novel facts and strange 
theories he has put forward are correct, I am little able to say, 
but I have appreciated his readiness to let me enter his solitary 
existence; I have felt at times that our hearts have drawn 
sympathetically near to each other; and I know now what it 
has meant to him to break his habitual reserve. 

To-night I have made a last attempt, under the shadow of 
impending departure, to induce him to reveal his deeper secrets. 

"Are you ready to abandon the life of cities and to retire 
into a solitary place in the hills or the jungle for some years?" 
he asks me, searchingly. 


"I must first think this out, Brama." 

"Are you ready to give up all other activities, all your work, 
renounce your pleasures and put your whole time into the 
exercises of our system - and that not merely for a few months, 
but for several years?" 

"I do not think so. No - I am not ready. One day, 
perhaps " 

"Then I can take you no farther. This Yoga of Body Control 
is too serious to become the mere sport of a man's leisure 

I see my chances of becoming a Yogi fade swiftly into 
nothing. I regretfully realize that the full system, with its 
many years of difficult training, its rigorous and austere 
discipline, is not for me. But there is something else which is 
closer to my heart than strange powers of the flesh. I confide 
in the anchorite. 

"Brama, these powers - they are wonderfully fascinating. 
One day I would really like to go more deeply into your training, 
yet, after all, how much lasting happiness do they bring? 
Is there not something finer still in Yoga? Perhaps I do not 
make myself clear?" 

Brama nods his head and says: 

"I understand." 

We both smile. 

"Our texts say that the wise man will follow up his practice 

of the Yoga of Body Control with the Yoga of Mind Control," 

he remarks, slowly. "It can be said that the first prepares 

the way for the second. When our ancient masters received 

the principles of our system from the god Shiva, they were 

told that the final goal was not to be purely material. They 

understood that the conquest of the body was to be looked 

upon as a step towards the conquest of the mind, and this 

again as a way to becoming spiritually perfect. So you see 

that our system deals with things close at hand, indeed, with 

the body, but only as an indirect means of penetrating to the 

spirit. Therefore, my own master has taught me: 'First 

run your course in Body Control; then you can take to the 

kingly science, the Mind Control.' Remember that a body 

which is mastered ceases to distract the mind; only a few 

can plunge straight into the path of holding the thoughts. 

Yet if a man feels strongly drawn to the way of Mind Control 

we do not interfere; for that, then, is his path." 

"And that is a purely mental Yoga?" 

"Even so. It is a training to make the mind like a steady 


light, and then that light is turned on to the abode of the 

"How can one start such training?" 

"For that again, it is necessary to find a master." 


Brama shrugs his shoulders. 

"Brother, people who are hungry look eagerly for food; 
those who are starving, however, will search like madmen. 
When you want a master as much as a starving man wants to 
eat, you will surely find one. Those who search sincerely will 
most assuredly be led towards him at the appointed hour." 

"You believe that there is a destiny about the matter? " 

"You speak truly." 

"I have seen some books " 

The Yogi shakes his head. 

"Without a master, your books are mere pieces of paper. 
Our word for him, guru, means: ' One who dispels darkness.' 
The man whose efforts and destiny favour him sufficiently to 
find a real teacher, steps quickly into a state of light, for the 
master uses his own higher gifts to benefit the disciple." 

Brama moves away to his bench of littered papers and 
presently returns with a large document, which he hands to 
me. It is covered with an orderly arrangement of cabbalistic 
signs, peculiar symbols and Tamil characters drawn in red, 
green and black inks. The top of the sheet is adorned with a 
large hieroglyphic symbol patterned like a scroll, in which I 
recognize representations of the sun, moon and the human 
eyes. All the sketches and writings fall around a central 
blank space. 

"Last night, I spent some hours preparing this," says 
Brama. " When you get back, paste one of my photographs 
in the centre." 

He informs me that if I will concentrate my mind upon this 
queer but not inartistic document for five minutes before 
going to sleep at night, I shall dream clearly and vividly of 

"Even if five thousand miles separate our bodies, place your 
thoughts upon this paper and our spirits shall meet at night," 
he asserts confidently. And he explains that these dream 
meetings will be as actual and as real as our physical meetings 
have been so far. 

This brings me to mention that my trunks are all but packed, 
and that I shall soon be off; I am doubtful when and where 
I may see him again. 


He replies that he does not doubt that whatever destiny 
has been allotted us, must be fulfilled. And then he confides 
in me: 

"I leave this place in the spring, when I shall go to the 
Tanjore district, where two students await me. As for what 
will happen thereafter, who can say, for, as you know, I hope 
one day to receive the call from my master." 

There is a long silence, which Brama eventually breaks by 
addressing me in a voice which is lowered to a hushed whisper. 
I turn to the student-teacher, preparing myself to receive 
some new revelation. 

"Last night my master appeared to me. He spoke to me 
about yourself. He said: 'Your friend, the sahib, is eager for 
knowledge. In his last birth he was among us. 'He followed 
Yoga practices, but they were not of our school. To-day he 
has come again to Hindustan, but in a white skin. What he 
knew then, has now been forgotten; yet he can forget for a 
while only. Until a master bestows his grace upon him he 
cannot become aware of this former knowledge. The master's 
touch is needed to help him recover that knowledge in this 
body. Tell him that soon he shall meet a master. Thereafter, 
light will come to him of its own accord. This is certain. Bid 
him cease his anxiety. Our land shall not be left by him until 
this happens. It is the writing of fate that he may not leave us 
with empty hands.'" 

I draw back, astounded. 

The lamp throws its beams of light upon the little assembly. 
My young interpreter's face seems stricken with awe in that 
yellowish glare. 

"Did you not tell me that your teacher was in distant 
Nepal?" I demand reproachfully. 

"Indeed, he remains there still!" 

"Then how on earth can he travel twelve hundred miles in a 
single night?" 

Brama smiles cryptically. 

"My master is ever present to me, though India's span 
lies'between our bodies. I receive his message without letter 
or bearer. His thought speeds through the air. It reaches 
me and I understand." 


"If you wish!" 

I rise, for it is time to go. We wander out on our last moon- 
light walk together, and pass the ancient walls of the temple 
which stands not far from Brama's house. The moon filigrees 


through the many-branched trees as we halt at a lovely group 
of palms which borders the road. 

Whilst he is bidding me farewell, Brama murmurs: 

"You know that I have but few possessions. This is the 
thing I value most. Take it." 

He grasps the fourth finger of his left hand, and pulls at it. 
He holds forward the palm of his right hand. I see a golden 
ring glistening in the centre under the rays of the moon. Eight 
slender claws grip a round green stone, whose face is veined 
with reddish-brown markings. Brama puts it in my hand as 
we clasp in farewell. I attempt to return the unexpected gift, 
but he meets my refusal by pressing it more determinedly 
upon me. 

"One who enjoys great wisdom in Yoga gave this to me. 
In those days I was travelling far and wide for knowledge. 
Now - I beg you to wear it." 

I thank him and enquire, half jokingly: 

"Will it bring me good fortune? " 

"No, it cannot do that. But there is a powerful charm 
within the stone, which will help you penetrate to the company 
of secret sages, and which will help you awaken your own mystic 
powers. This you will realize by experience. Wear it when 
you need these things." 

There is a final and friendly parting, and we go our ways. 

I walk slowly away, my head filled with a strange medley of 
thoughts. I muse over the extraordinary message from Brama's 
far-off master. It is too extraordinary for me to dispute. I 
remain silent before it while belief and scepticism fight 
a fantastic conflict in my heart. 

I glance at the golden ring and ask myself, "How can a mere 
ring possess any real efficacy in these matters?" I do not 
understand how or why it can influence me or others in any 
mental or spiritual manner. The belief savours of superstition. 
Yet Brama seems so confident of the reality of its fanciful 
properties. Is it possible? I feel almost impelled to answer: 
In this strange land all things may be possible! But intellect 
rushes to the rescue and puts up a barricade of question marks. 

I fall into a fit of musing abstraction, so that I move away, 
startled, when I stumble against something and knock my 
forehead. Looking up, I behold the poetic silhouette of a palm 
tree and the fireflies making a myriad dancing points of light 
between the branches. 

The night sky is deep blue. Venus - a point of intense 
brightness - seems quite close to our planet. Infinite peace 


broods over the road as I walk. A mysterious stillness enthrals 
me. Even the large bats which occasionally appear and sweep 
over my head, move their wings silently. The scene charms me. 
I stop for a moment. The moon diffuses a light which turns 
a man, who is approaching me, into a flitting ghost. 

When I reach my quarters, I find that wakefulness lingers late 
this night. Close to dawn sleep comes at last, drowning my 
whirl of thoughts in forgetfulness. 


"Paste one of my photographs in the centre. Even if five thousand 

miles separate our bodies, place your thoughts upon this paper and 

our spirits shall meet at night." 



I MUST break the chronological character of this record, 
and wander backwards in time for a week or so, if I am 
to catch the record of a not uninteresting encounter. 

During my stay in the suburb outside Madras, I have not 
neglected to pursue diligent enquiries within Indian circles in 
the city itself, with reference to the existence of outstanding 
figures of the kind in whom I am interested at the time. I talk 
to judges, lawyers, teachers, business people and even one or 
two pious notables. I interview the interviewers and spend a 
few pleasant hours with men of my own profession. I discover 
an assistant editor who tells me privately that he was a keen 
student of Yoga in his younger days. He sat then at the feet 
of one whom he still regards as being indubitably an adept 
in the science of Mind Control, but this master died ten 
years ago. 

The erstwhile pupil is a charming and highly intelligent 
Hindu, but alas! he does not know where high-grade Yogis 
can now be found. 

Aside from this, I meet with little more than vague tales, 
foolish legends and positive rebuffs. It is true that I meet 
with one holy man whose Christlike face and robes would have 
created a sensation in prosaic Piccadilly, but he, too, tells me 
that he is wandering the land in search of a higher life. He has 
renounced an estate of good farming land to become a gypsy, 
a holy beggar. He offers me this estate, provided that I shall 
settle down and serve benighted, suffering Indians. Alas, I too 
am a benighted, suffering mortal. His munificent offer is 
passed on elsewhere. 

Word is brought me one day concerning a reputed Yogi. 
He lives about half a mile outside Madras, yet, because he dis- 
courages acquaintance, appears to be known to few persons. 
My curiosity is quickly excited and I determine to have an 
audience with him, 



The house is hidden behind tall bamboo poles which fence 
a square compound, and which stands completely isolated in the 
centre of a field. 

My companion points to the compound. 

"I am told that the Yogi is immersed in trance most of the 
day. It is unlikely that he will hear us even if we rattle the gate 
or shout his name; even if we did those things, it would be 
thought rude." 

A rough gate gives entrance to the enclosure, but as it is 
strongly padlocked I begin to wonder how we are to get into 
the house. Complete silence pervades the scene. We wander 
around the field, turn away from a piece of adjoining waste 
land, and eventually meet a boy who knows where to find the 
residence of the Yogi's attendant. A circuitous walk brings 
us to the place. 

The man proves to be a hired servant. His wife and many 
children come outside to see us and trail behind his heels. We 
tell him our desire, but he refuses to help us. He firmly 
declares that the Sage Who Never Speaks is not on view 
to stray visitors, but lives in strict seclusion. The Sage's 
days are spent in deep trances and he would be highly 
offended if all and sundry were allowed to break in on his 

I beg the attendant to make an exception in my favour, but 
he is adamant. It becomes necessary for my friend to threaten 
Government interference, if we are not admitted forthwith - 
a totally unjustifiable procedure, of course, but one which I 
illegally reinforce, though our eyes wink towards each other. 
There ensues an animated discussion. I supplement our 
threats by the lure of liberal baksheesh and it is not long 
before the attendant reluctantly yields and brings out his 
keys. My companion informs me that it is clear the man 
is no more than a paid servant, because if he were a personal 
disciple of the Sage, neither threats nor money could have 
moved him. 

We march back to the gate of the compound and unlock a 
massive iron padlock. The servant informs us that the Sage's 
belongings are so few that they do not include a key. He is 
locked in the compound from the outside and has no means of 
egress until the attendant's visits, which take place twice 
daily. We learn further that the Sage is occupied with his 
trances throughout the day, but in the evening he partakes of 
some fruit, sweetmeats, and a cupful of milk. There have 
been many evenings, however, when the food has remained 


untouched. The fall of darkness sometimes brings the recluse 
out of his cottage, though a walk around the fields is the only 
exercise he takes. 

We cross the compound and arrive at a modern cottage. It is 
solidly built of stone slabs and painted timber posts. The 
attendant produces another key and unlocks a heavy door. I 
express surprise at all these precautions, for did not the servant 
tell us that the Sage's belongings are very few? Thereupon the 
man tells us a brief explanatory story. 

Some years earlier the silent Sage lived in the cottage 
without the protection of any locks or fastenings upon the 
entrances. But one unfortunate day there came a man who was 
drunk with toddy liquor, and who took advantage of the 
defenceless state of the Sage to attack him. The drunkard 
pulled his beard, belaboured him with a stick and shouted 
disgusting epithets. 

Chance intervened to draw some young men into the field, 
intent upon playing a ball game. The noise of the assault 
drew their attention. They entered the cottage and rescued the 
Sage from his assailant, while one of them ran off to the nearest 
houses to inform all and sundry. Before long a group of excited 
people gathered together, Indian fashion, and began to mis- 
handle the drunken ruffian who had dared attack a revered holy 
man. There was a likelihood that the man who was so dastardly 
would be lynched. 

Throughout this episode the Sage had maintained his usual 
stoic calmness and endurance. Now he intervened and wrote 
down the following message. 

"If you beat this man, it is the same as beating me. Let 
him go, for I have forgiven him." 

Since the Sage's word was unwritten law, his request was 
unwillingly obeyed and the miscreant set free. 


The attendant peers into the room and then warns us to be 
perfectly quiet, because the Sage is sunk in trance. I unlace 
my shoes and leave them behind on the veranda, in obedience 
to the inexorable dictates of Hindu custom. As I bend my 
head I notice a small flat stone in the wall. Its face is inscribed 
with Tamil characters. "The Abode of the Sage Who Never 
Speaks," translates my companion. 

We enter the one-roomed cottage. It is lofty, well-roofed 


and scrupulously clean. A raised marble dais, which is about 
one foot high, is built into the floor's centre. Its surface is 
covered with a richly patterned Persian rug. Upon this rug sits 
the entranced figure of the silent Sage. 

Imagine a handsome man, whose skin shines with a tawny 
blackish colour, whose body is finely erect, and who sits in a 
peculiar attitude which I immediately identify as one of the 
Yoga postures which Brama has shown me. The left leg is 
doubled back so that the foot is under the base of the body, 
and the right leg is swung across the left thigh. The Sage's 
back, neck and head form a perfectly straight line. His hair falls 
in long black strands almost to his shoulders, and hangs thickly 
around his head. There is a sweeping black beard upon his 
chin. His hands are clasped over his knees. I notice that the 
trunk is remarkably well developed; it is very muscular and he 
is clearly in a healthy condition. The only covering he wears 
is a loin cloth. 

His face photographs itself immediately in my memory as the 
face of a man who smiles in triumph over life, a man who has 
conquered the frailties which we, feebler mortals that we are, 
harbour willingly or unwillingly. The mouth is slightly 
stretched - as though about to break into a smile. The 
nose is short and straight, almost Grecian in type. The 
eyes are wide open; they stare straight ahead in a fixed and 
unblinking gaze. The man sits like a carved rock and never 

My informant has earlier told me that the silent Sage is 
without doubt deeply immersed in an entranced communion 
wherein the human part of his nature is presumed to be sunk 
into temporary abeyance, and that he is quite unaware of his 
physical surroundings. I watch the Sage steadily but can find 
no room for doubt that he is in a cataleptic trance. The minutes 
add up into hours but he remains motionless. 

What impresses me most is that throughout that time he 
never blinks his eyes. I have never before met any human 
being who could sit down and look steadily ahead for two hours 
without the flicker of an eyelid. Little by little, I am compelled 
to conclude that if the recluse's eyes are still open, they are 
nevertheless quite unseeing. If his mind is awake, it is not to 
this sublunary world. The bodily faculties seem to have gone 
to sleep. Occasionally, a tear drop falls from his eyes. It is 
clear that the fixation of the eyelids prevents them carrying 
out their usual office on behalf of the tear ducts. 

A green lizard descends from the roof, creeps across the 


carpet, crawls over one of the Sage's legs, and then passes 
behind the marble dais. Yet, had it crawled over a stone wall, 
it would not have found a steadier surface than that leg. From 
time to time flies settle upon his face and journey over his 
swarthy skin, but no muscular response can be observed. Had 
they alighted upon the face of a bronze statue, precisely the same 
effect might be observed. 

I study the figure's breathing. It is extremely gentle, almost 
imperceptible, quite inaudible but quite regular. It is the only 
sign he provides that life has not parted from the body. 

While we are waiting I decide to use the time to take a photo- 
graph or two of this impressive figure. I slip my folding camera 
out of its leather case and focus the lens upon him from my seat 
on the floor. The lighting of the room is not good; therefore 
I give a couple of time exposures. 

I look at my watch. Two hours have passed. The Yogi 
still shows no signs of emerging from his long trance. The 
sculptural rigidity of his form is remarkable. 

I am prepared to stay all day in order to achieve my object, 
in order to interview this strange man. But the attendant now 
comes up to us and whispers that it is useless to wait any longer. 
Nothing will be gained by doing so. If we will come again in 
a day or two, better fortune might be ours; nevertheless, he 
cannot promise anything definitely. 

We leave the place, temporarily defeated as we are, and turn 
our steps toward the city. My interest has not waned; on the 
contrary, it has heightened. 

During the next two days I endeavour to collect some 
information relative to the Sage Who Never Speaks. This 
endeavour involves a scattered and discursive investigation, 
which varies from a lengthy cross-examination of his attendant 
to a brief interview with a police inspector. In this way I 
succeed in piecing together a fragment of the Sage's story. 

Eight years ago he arrived in Madras district. No one knew 
who he was, what he was or whence he came. He took up his 
residence on the piece of waste land which now adjoins the field 
containing his cottage. Inquisitive inquirers who addressed 
him received no reply for their pains. He spoke to none, 
heeded no sounds and no persons, and could not be drawn 
even into the most casual conversation. He begged a little 
food occasionally by holding out his coconut-shell bowl. 

Day after day he persisted in squatting amid these unattrac- 
tive surroundings, despite his exposure to the relentless rays 
of a burning sun, to the heavy downpours of the monsoon 


season, and to dust and unpleasant insects. Never at any time 
did he make any effort to seek shelter, but always remained 
serenely oblivious of external circumstances. There was no 
protection for his head and no covering for his body, except 
for a narrow loin cloth. 

He never changed the Yoga posture in which he sat for any 
other. Now, the outskirts of a large city like Madras were 
hardly suitable for a hermit who wished to seat himself in the 
open air and in full public gaze in order to plunge his mind 
into abstracted meditations for lengthy periods. Such conduct 
would have won great respect in ancient India, but the modern 
Yogi can find favourable conditions for his mystic practices 
only in sparse jungle spaces, forest retreats, mountain caves or 
in the seclusion of his room. 

Why, then, did this strange hermit choose such an unsuitable 
spot for his meditations? An unpleasant occurrence provided 
the curious explanation. 

One day a band of youthful and ignorant hooligans came 
across the lonely Yogi by chance and began to persecute him. 
They left the city with reprehensible punctuality to engage in a 
daily campaign of stone-throwing, dirt-flinging and abusive 
jeering. The hermit continued to sit quietly, and patiently 
endured his trials, although he was stalwart enough to be able 
to give them a sound thrashing. He did not even rebuke them 
because he was under a vow of silence. 

Nothing stopped the young brutes until a man happened to 
pass by when they were busy with their usual persecution of 
the Yogi. The stranger was shocked at seeing a holy man so ill- 
treated. He went back to Madras and gave information to the 
police, from whom he demanded help on behalf of the voiceless 
Yogi. The help was forthcoming and the despicable band was 
dispersed with severe warnings. 

After this event a police officer decided to make some 
enquiries about the hermit, but he was unable to find a single 
person who knew anything about him. So he was compelled 
to question the Yogi, which he did with all the authority of the 
law. After much hesitation the Yogi wrote a brief statement 
upon a slate. This is what he scribbled: 

"I am a pupil of Marakayar. My master directed me to 
cross the plains and go south to Madras. He described this 
piece of ground and explained where I would be able to find it. 
He told me to take up my abode here and to continue in the 
steady practise of Yoga until I have made myself perfect in it. 
I have given up the worldly life and desire only to be left alone. 


I have no interest in the affairs of Madras and seek nothing 
more than to follow my spiritual path." 

The police officer was quite satisfied that the man was a 
genuine faqueer of a superior type, so he withdrew after 
promising protection against the hooligans. He recognized the 
name of Marakayar as being that of a famous Muhammedan 
faqueer who had recently died. 

"Out of evil cometh good," runs the old proverb. The 
upshot of this unpleasant affair was that the presence of the 
recluse became known to a wealthy and pious citizen of Madras. 
The latter endeavoured to tempt him into the city with the lure 
of residence in a fine house, but the hermit would not disobey 
his master's instructions. In the end the newly-found patron 
had to build a stone-and-timber bungalow near the ground 
which the Yogi refused to leave. The latter consented to 
occupy it and, as it was properly roofed, he was thenceforth 
adequately protected against the inclemencies of changing 

His patron also appointed a personal attendant for the Yogi. 
It was now no longer necessary for the latter to beg, as all his 
food was brought to him by the attendant. Whether his master 
Marakayar had foreseen such a pleasant consequence of an 
unpleasant experience or not, it remained that the last condition 
of his pupil was much better than the first. 

I learn that the Sage Who Never Speaks has not even one 
pupil. He seeks none and accepts none. He is one of those 
solitaries who prefer to live in isolation in order to achieve their 
own "spiritual liberation." If there is any value in the latter, 
then their attitude is apparently a selfish one, judged by our 
Western lights. And yet, when one remembers the Sage's 
profound considerateness towards the drunkard and his refusal 
to retaliate against the young hooligans, one wonders whether 
he can be so very selfish after all. 


Accompanied by two other persons, I make my second 
attempt to interview the Sage Who Never Speaks. One is my 
interpreter, while the second man is none other than the Yogi 
who has taught me so much - Brama, "the Adyar anchorite," 
as I affectionately call him. Brama never cares to enter the 
city, but when I make known the object of my visit and desire 
him to accompany me, he agrees without demur. 


At the compound we meet another visitor, who has left a large 
car on the roadside and walked across the fields to the same 
objective. He, too, is desirous of seeing the silent Sage. He 
tells me during a brief conversation that he is a brother of the 
Queen of Gadwal, a small state which is tributary to the Nizam 
of Hyderabad. He informs me that he also is a patron of the 
Sage, inasmuch as he insists on making a regular contribution 
towards the cost of maintaining the shelter. He has come on a 
brief visit to Madras, but cannot leave the town without paying 
his respects to the Sage, and perchance receiving his blessing. 
What the latter is worth, I learn from a story which the visitor 

A lady at the Court of Gadwal had a child who suffered from 
some dread ailment. By some odd coincidence she heard of the 
existence of the Sage Who Never Speaks. Such is her anxiety 
that she journeys to Madras and begs the hermit to grant his 
blessing and heal the little boy. The blessing is given and from 
that date the child makes a marvellous recovery. The incident 
comes to the notice of the Queen, who also visits the hermit. 
Her Highness presents him with a purse of six hundred rupees, 
which he refuses to accept. She presses him until he writes a 
message saying that the money can be used to improve his 
shelter by fixing a fence around the cottage, so that he shall 
secure more privacy. The Queen arranges to have this done 
and thus the bamboo fence comes into being. 

The attendant again admits us into the cottage, where we 
find the recluse sunk in the same trance-like condition which he 
maintained throughout my first visit. 

We squat upon the floor in silence and wait patiently before 
the tall, majestic, black-bearded figure on the marble dais. 
About half-way through the second hour we perceive the first 
signs of returning activity in the Sage's body. His breathing 
becomes deeper and then more audible. The eyelids move, the 
eyeballs roll alarmingly upwards until the whites glare and then 
come down to normal. A slight swaying movement becomes 
perceptible in his trunk. 

Five minutes later the expression in the Sage's eyes changes 
in such a way that we know he has become aware of his physical 
environment. He looks attentively at the interpreter, turns his 
head abruptly and looks at Brama and then at the other visitor, 
turns it again and looks at me. 

I seize the opportunity and place a pencil and a pad of paper 
at his feet. He hesitates awhile, takes up the pencil and writes 
in large flourishing Tamil characters: 


"Who came here the other day and tried to take pictures?" 

I am compelled to admit to this activity. As a matter of fact, 
the effort had been useless, for I had under-exposed the films. 

He writes again: 

"When you go again to Yogis who are in deep trance, never 
disturb them by such actions. Do not attempt to break in 
abruptly upon their meditations. In my own case it did not 
matter, but I tell you this to guide your future actions when 
you try to see other Yogis. Such interruption may be dangerous 
to them and they might put a curse upon you." 

It is evidently looked upon as a minor act of sacrilege 
to penetrate the solitude of such a man, so I express my 

The Queen of Gadwal's brother now proffers his devotion 
to the Sage. When he has finished I venture to introduce 
myself as one deeply interested in the ancient wisdom of India. 
I have heard across the seas, I inform him, that India still 
possesses a few men who have made remarkable attainments in 
Yoga and I seek to discover them. Will the Sage give me such 
enlightenment as he thinks fit? 

The hermit remains statuesque, impassive; his face betrays 
no responsive change of expression. For fully ten minutes he 
gives no sign that he has heard my request. I begin to fear that 
I have drawn a blank, that he regards the materialistic Westerner 
as unfit even for the slightest degree of enlightenment. Possibly 
my clumsy outrage with the camera has repelled him. Am I 
not expecting too much, when I expect this reserved member 
of a reclusive species to break his trance for the sake of an 
infidel member of an alien race? A sense of chagrin rises up 
in me. 

My disappointment is too premature. The Sage takes the 
pencil at length and scrawls something upon the paper. When 
he has finished I lean over and push the pad to our interpreter. 

"What is there to understand?" he slowly translates. The 
writing is difficult to decipher. 

"The universe is full of problems?" I rejoin, disconcerted. 

I fancy that a slightly derisive smile now begins to play around 
the lips of the Sage. 

"Since you do not understand even your own self," he asks, 
"how can you hope to understand the universe?" 

He looks straight into my eyes. I feel that behind his steady 
gaze there is some deep knowledge, some store of secrets which 
he is guarding with relentless care. I cannot account for this 
queer impression. 


"Yet I am much bewildered," is all I can bring myself to 
say next. 

"Why, then, do you go about like a bee which sucks mere 
drops of the honey of knowledge, when the heavy mass of pure 
honey awaits you?" 

This answer tantalizes me. It is, no doubt, all-sufficient to 
an Oriental mind. Its mystic vagueness charms me as a piece 
of poetry, but blurs me when I look for a useful contribution 
that will solve some of life's problems. 
"But where shall one look?" 

"Seek your own self, and you shall know the Truth which is 
deep hidden therein," comes the reply. 

"But I find only the emptiness of ignorance," I persist. 
"The ignorance exists within your thoughts alone," he 
writes laconically. 

"Pardon me, master, but your answer plunges me into still 
further ignorance!" 

The Sage actually smiles at my temerity. He hesitates 
awhile, screws up his eyebrows, and then writes: 

"You have thought yourself into your present ignorance; 
now think yourself back into wisdom, which is the same as 
self-understanding. Thought is like a bullock cart which 
carries a man into the darkness of a mountain tunnel. Turn 
it backwards and you will be carried back to the light 

I ruminate over his words, which still puzzle me a little. 
Seeing this, the Sage beckons for the pad, poises the pencil in 
the air for a few moments, and explains: 

"This backward-turning of thought is the highest Yoga. 
Now do you understand?" 

A very dim light begins to dawn on me. I feel that, given 
sufficient time in which to meditate on the matter, we shall be 
able to understand each other; therefore, I resolve not to press 
the point too much. 

I am so intent on watching him that I have not noticed the 
arrival of a fresh visitor, who has taken advantage of the opened 
gate to enter and join us. I become aware of his presence only 
when he breathes a strange remark into my ear, for he is sitting 
immediately behind me. Whilst I am puzzling over a reply of 
the Sage, feeling slightly disappointed at the cryptic character 
of his words, a mysterious murmur reaches me, its words 
phrased in excellent English: 

"My master can give you the answer for which you are 


I turn my head and look at the intruder. 

He is a man not older than forty, dressed in the ochre- 
coloured robe of a wandering Yogi. The skin of his face shines 
like polished brass. He is well built and broad shouldered - a 
powerful looking figure. His nose is thin, prominent and beaked 
like a parrot's. His eyes are small and seem to be wrinkled in 
perpetual laughter. He squats upon his haunches and grins 
broadly at me when our eyes meet. 

But I cannot perpetrate the rude action of entering into 
desultory conversation with the stranger, so I turn back and fix 
my attention again upon the Sage. 

Another question comes to the forefront of my mind. It is 
possibly too daring or too impertinent. 

"Master, the world needs help. Is it right for the wise ones, 
such as yourself, to be lost to it in solitary retirement?" 

A quizzical expression crosses the calm face of the 

"My son," he replies, "when you do not know yourself, 
how can you dream of understanding me? It is of little avail 
to discuss the things of the spirit. Strive to enter into your 
inner self through the practice of Yoga. You must work hard 
upon this path. Then your problems will solve themselves of 
their own accord." 

I make a last attempt to draw him. 

"The world needs a deeper light than it possesses. I would 
like to find it and share it. What shall I do?" 

"When you know the Truth you will know exactly what to 
do to serve mankind best, nor will you lack the power to do so. 
If a flower possesses the honey, the bee will find it out of its 
own accord. If a man possesses spiritual wisdom and strength, 
he need not go in search of people; they will come unasked 
to him. Cultivate your inner self until you know it fully. 
No other instruction is necessary. This is the only thing 
to do." 

He then informs us that he wishes to close the interview, so 
as to resume his trance. 

I ask for a final message. 

The silent Sage gazes over my head into seeming space. A 
minute later he pencils a reply and pushes the pad towards me. 
We read: 

"I am very pleased because you came here. Take this as 
my initiation." 

I hardly finish taking in the purport of his answer when I 
suddenly feel a strange force entering my body. It pours 


through my spinal column and stiffens the neck and draws up 
the head. The power of will seems raised to a superlative 
degree. I become conscious of a dynamic urge to conquer 
myself and make the body obey the will to realize one's 
deepest ideals. And I feel intuitively that those ideals are but 
voices of my best self, which alone can promise me lasting 

A queer thought comes to me that some current is being 
projected to me from the Sage, some invisible telepathic 
current. Can it be that he is thus vouchsafing to me an inkling 
of his own attainment? 

The eyes of the recluse become fixed and the far-off look 
again enters them. His body becomes taut as he settles down 
more firmly into his familiar posture. I plainly perceive that 
he is withdrawing his attention into depths which may possibly 
be deeper than thought, that he is plunging his consciousness 
into inner recesses which he loves better than this world. 

Is he then a true Yogi? Is he engaged on mysterious 
inward explorations which, I begin to suspect, may be fraught 
with some meaning to humanity? Who knows? 

When we emerge from the compound, Brama, the Adyar 
anchorite, turns to me and says, in a quiet voice: 

"This Yogi has reached a high state, although not the final 
goal. He possesses occult gifts, but is keener to perfect his 
spirituality. His fine bodily condition I attribute to his long 
practice of the Yoga of Body Control, though I now observe 
that he has advanced into the art of Mind Control. I knew 
him before." 


"I discovered him some years ago near here, when he lived 
in the open field without a cottage. I recognized him for what 
he was - a practising Yogi following my path. I shall also tell 
you that he informed me - through writing, of course - that 
in early life he was a Sepoy in the army. After his period of 
service came to an end, he wearied of this worldly life and 
embraced solitude. It was then that he met the renowned 
faqueer Marakayar and became his disciple." 

We proceed in silence across the fields and then rejoin the 
dusty road. I do not mention to anyone the unexpected and 
inexplicable experience which came to me in the cottage. I 
want to muse over it while its echoes are yet sounding fresh 
within me. 

I never see the Sage again. He does not wish me to intrude 
upon his secluded life and I must respect his wish. I leave 


him to his lonely meditations, wrapped in his mantle of 
impenetrability. He has no desire to found a school or collect 
a following, and his ambitions seem to stretch no farther than 
passing unobtrusively through life. He has nothing to add to 
what he has already said to me. He does not make an art of 
conversation for its own sake, as we do in the West. 


"Here is no stone building whose columned beauty stays one's emotions in a few minutes of silent wonder, as do those courts 
of the deities near Athens, but rather a gloomy sanctuary of dark mysteries." 


"Go to some place over which the mighty Himalayas keep eternal guard. There you will find a totally different class of 
men. They live in humble huts or caves, eat little food and constantly pray to God. They, too, are called Yogis." 

"This Parsee holy man is doubtless a great lover of Nature for he has 
set his retreat in a scene of aloof untroubled peace." 


"Is it possible that this aged and decrepit fleshly frame, this 
haggard and huddled figure, contains the soul of a genuine 
faqueer with wondrous powers. Who can say? 


when Meher came face to face with Upasani Maharaj, 
he felt that he had found his master." 


"If a Yogi enters into such a posture and then practises 

a certain breathing exercise, he will become more 



"One gathers the impression that the mind behind 

those eyes is pondering over some matter." 


His noble face, pictured in grey and brown, takes an honoured place in the 
long portrait gallery of my memory." 

By courtesy Indian Railways Bureau, London 


' The tradition of my office requires that I give a spiritual discourse in the 
local temple." 

By courtesy Indian Railways Bureau, Lone 

"Something inside me always thrills to the graceful arches of a mosque and to the delicate beauty of cupolas. 
Once again I remove my shoes and enter the charming white building." 


' A patriarch has stepped from the pages of the Bible, and a figure 

from Mosaic times has turned to flesh." 


She was the wife of Ramakrishna. The latter was the spiritual 

guide of Mahasaya, and was one of the last of India's Rishees, or 

spiritual supermen. 


A faqueer who claims extraordinary occult powers. Here he is seen 

in a mystic trance wherein the eyeballs turn upon their axes. Note 

the chin-rest. 


Once a pupil of the Maharishee, but now an adept in his own turn 

lives in a temple and instructs his own group of disciples. 

By courtesy Indian Railways Bureau, London 



' The feet of many centuries have worn down the steps 
until they are rugged and uneven." 


"His venerable appearance and seat of honour are 

enough to inform me that here is the object of my 

By courtesy Indian Rail-ways Bureau, London 


'The river reflects the last red light of sunset. All nature, dumb at the lovely 

sight, seems to have come to momentary rest." 



" Master of over one hundred thousand 
people who practise a mysterious form of 



By courtesy Indian Railways Bureau, London 

We explore colourful edifices where once the seductive favourites of kings flaunted their 
olive-skinned beauty upon marble balconies and in golden baths." 


"I have, in search of my Father and in obedience to His com- 
mand, started from here. This is only embarking on a virtuous 
enterprise. Therefore none need grieve over this affair." 


"He gazes out towards the jungle-covered hills which stretch 

to the horizon and remains motionless. It is impossible to 

be in frequent contact with him without becoming lit up 

inwardly, as it were, by a ray from his spiritual orb." 


" I meet him at the pool, whither he has come with a 
brass pitcher for water. His darkly mysterious, but 

benignant, countenance again attracts me." 


"He stays in a small stone shelter which he has had 
constructed under the shadow of some huge boulders." 



SOMEONE draws up to my side before we reach the 
end of the road which is to take us into Madras. I 
turn my head. The yellow robed Yogi - for it is he - 
rewards me with a majestic grin. His mouth stretches almost 
from ear to ear, and his eyes wrinkle into narrow slits. 

"You wish to speak to me?" I enquire. 

"I do, sir," he replies quickly, and with a good accent to 
his English. "May I ask what you are doing in our country?" 

I hesitate before this inquisitiveness, and decide to give a 
vague reply. 

"Oh! just travelling around." 

"You are interested in our holy men, I believe?" 

"Yes - a little." 

"I am a Yogi, sir," he informs me. 

He is the heftiest-looking Yogi I have ever seen. 

"How long have you been one?" 

"Three years, sir." 

"Well, you look none the worse for it, if you will pardon 
my saying so!" 

He draws himself proudly together and stands at attention. 
Since his feet are naked, I take the click of his heels for granted. 

"For seven years I was a soldier of His Majesty the King- 
Emperor!" he exclaims. 


"Yes, sir. I served with the ranks in the Indian Army 
during the Mesopotamian campaign. After the war I was put 
into the Military Accounts Department because of my superior 

I am compelled to smile at this unsolicited testimonial to 

"I left the service on account of family trouble and went 
through a period of great distress. This induced me to take 
to the spiritual path and become a Yogi." 



I hand him a card. 

"Shall we exchange names? " I suggest. 

"My personal name is Subramanya; my caste name is 
Aiyar," he quickly announces. 

"Well, Mr. Subramanya, I am waiting for an explanation 
of your whispered remark in the house of the silent Sage." 

"And I have been waiting all this time to give it to you! 
Take your questions to my master, for he is the wisest man in 
India, wiser even than the Yogis." 

"So? And have you travelled throughout all India? Have 
you met all the great Yogis, that you can make such a 

"I have met several of them, for I know the country from 
Cape Comorin to the Himalayas." 


"Sir, I have never met anyone like him. He is a great soul. 
And I want you to meet him." 


"Because he has led me to you! It is his power which has 
drawn you to India!" 

This bombastic statement strikes me as being too exaggerated 
and I begin to recoil from the man. I am always afraid of the 
rhetorical exaggerations of emotional persons, and it is obvious 
that the yellow-robed Yogi is highly emotional. His voice, 
gesture, appearance and atmosphere plainly reveal it. 

"I do not understand," is my cold reply. 

He falls into further explanations. 

"Eight months ago I came into touch with him. For five 
months I was permitted to stay with him and then I was sent 
forth on my travels once more. I do not think you are likely 
to meet with another such man as he. His spiritual gifts are 
so great that he will answer your unspoken thoughts. You 
need only be with him a short time to realize his high spiritual 

"Are you sure he would welcome my visit?" 

"Oh, sir! Absolutely. It is his guidance which sent me 
to you." 

"Where does he live?" 

"On Arunachala - the Hill of the Holy Beacon." 

"And where is that?" 

"In the North Arcot territory, which lies farther south. 
1 will constitute myself your guide. Let me take you there. 
My master will solve your doubts and remove your problems, 
because he knows the highest truth." 


"That sounds quite interesting," I admit reluctantly, "but 
I regret that the visit is impossible at present. My trunks are 
packed and I shall soon be leaving for the North-east. There 
are two important appointments to be fulfilled, you see." 

"But this is more important." 

"Sorry. We met too late. My arrangements are made 
and they cannot be easily altered. I may be back in the South 
later, but we must leave this journey for the present." 

The Yogi is plainly disappointed. 

"You are missing an opportunity, sir, and " 

I foresee a useless argument, so cut him short. 

"I must leave you now. Thanks, anyway." 

"I refuse to accept your refusal," he obstinately declares. 
"To-morrow evening I shall call upon you and I hope then 
to hear that you have changed your mind." 

Our conversation abruptly finishes. I watch his strong, 
well-knit, yellow-robed figure start across the road. 

When I reach home, I begin to feel that it is possible I have 
made an error of judgment. If the master is worth half the 
disciple's claims, then he is worth the troublesome journey 
into the southern tip of the peninsula. But I have grown 
somewhat tired of enthusiastic devotees. They sing paeans of 
praise to their masters, who prove on investigations to fall 
lamentably short of the more critical standards of the West. 
Furthermore, sleepless nights and sticky days have rendered 
my nerves less serene than they should be; thus, the possibility 
that the journey might prove a wild goose chase looms larger 
than it should. 

Yet argument fails to displace feeling. A queer instinct 
warns me that there may be some real basis for the Yogi's 
ardent insistence on the distinctive claims of his master. I 
cannot keep off a sense of self-disappointment. 


About the time of tiffin, that is, tea and biscuits, the servant 
announces a visitor. The latter proves to be a fellow member 
of the ink-stained fraternity, to wit, the writer Venkataramani. 

Several letters of introduction lie where I have thrown them, 
at the bottom of my trunk. I have no desire to use them. 
This is in response to a curious whim that it might be better 
to tempt whatever gods there be to do their best - or worst. 
However, I used one in Bombay, preparatory to beginning my 


quest, and I used another in Madras because I have been 
charged to deliver a personal message with it. And thus, this 
second note has brought Venkataramani to my door. 

He is a member of the Senate of Madras University, but he 
is better known as the author of talented essays and novels of 
village life. He is the first Hindu writer in Madras Presidency, 
who uses the medium of English, to be publicly presented with 
an inscribed ivory shield because of his services to literature. 
He writes in a delicate style of such merit as to win high 
commendation from Rabindranath Tagore in India and from 
the late Lord Haldane in England. His prose is piled with 
beautiful metaphors, but his stories tell of the melancholy 
life of neglected villages. 

As he enters the room I look at his tall, lean person, his small 
head with its tiny tuft of hair, his small chin and bespectacled 
eyes. They are the eyes of a thinker, an idealist and a poet 
combined. Yet the sorrows of suffering peasants are reflected 
in their sad irises. 

We soon find ourselves on several paths of common interest. 
After we have compared notes about most things, after we have 
contemptuously pulled politics to pieces and swung the 
censers of adoration before our favourite authors, I am suddenly 
impressed to reveal to him the real reason of my Indian visit. 
I tell him with perfect frankness what my object is; I ask 
him about the whereabouts of any real Yogis who possess 
demonstrable attainments; and I warn him that I am not 
especially interested in meeting dirt-besmeared ascetics or 
juggling faqueers. 

He bows his head and then shakes it negatively. 

" India is no longer the land of such men. With the in- 
creasing materialism of our country, its wide degeneration on 
one hand and the impact of unspiritual Western culture on 
the other, the men you are seeking, the great masters, have all 
but disappeared. Yet I firmly believe that some exist in 
retirement, in lonely forests perhaps, but unless you devote a 
whole lifetime to the search, you will find them with the 
greatest difficulty. When my fellow Indians undertake such 
a quest as yours, they have to roam far and wide nowadays. 
Then how much harder will it be for a European?" 

"Then you hold out little hope?" I ask. 

"Well, one cannot say. You may be fortunate." 

Something moves me to put a sudden question: 

"Have you heard of a master who lives in the mountains of 
North Arcot?" 


He shakes his head. 

Our talk wanders back to literary topics. 

I offer him a cigarette, but he excuses himself from smoking. 
I light one for myself and while I inhale the fragrant smoke of 
the Turkish weed, Venkataramani pours out his heart in 
passionate praise of the fast disappearing ideals of old Hindu 
culture. He makes reference to such ideas as simplicity of 
living, service of the community, leisurely existence and 
spiritual aims. He wants to lop off parasitic stupidities which 
grow on the body of Indian society. The biggest thing in his 
mind, however, is his vision of saving the half-million villages 
of India from becoming mere recruiting centres for the slums 
of large industrialized towns. Though this menace is more 
remote than real, his prophetic insight and memory of Western 
industrial history sees this as a certain result of present day 
trends. Venkataramani tells me that he was born in a family 
with a property near one of the oldest villages of South India, 
and he greatly lamented the cultural decay and material 
poverty into which village life had fallen. He loves to hatch 
out schemes for the betterment of the simple village folk, 
and he refuses to be happy whilst they are unhappy. 

I listen quietly in the attempt to understand his viewpoint. 
Finally, he rises to go and I watch his tall thin form disappear 
down the road. 

Early next morning I am surprised to receive an unexpected 
visit from him. His carriage rushes hastily to the gate, for he 
fears that I might be out. 

"I received a message late last night that my greatest 
patron is staying for one day at Chingleput," he bursts out. 

After he has recovered his breath, he continues: 

"His Holiness Shri Shankara Acharya of Kumbakonam is 
the Spiritual Head of South India. Millions of people 
revere him as one of God's teachers. It happens that he has 
taken a great interest in me and has encouraged my literary 
career, and of course he is the one to whom I look for 
spiritual advice. I may now tell you what I refrained from 
mentioning yesterday. We regard him as a master of the 
highest spiritual attainment. But he is not a Yogi. He is the 
Primate of the Southern Hindu world, a true saint and great 
religious philosopher. Because he is fully aware of most of the 
spiritual currents of our time, and because of his own attain- 
ment, he has probably an exceptional knowledge of the real 
Yogis. He travels a good deal from village to village and from 
city to city, so that he is particularly well informed on such 


matters. Wherever he goes, the holy men come to him to pay 
their respects. He could probably give you some useful 
advice. Would you like to visit him?" 

"That is extremely kind of you. I shall gladly go. How far 
is Chingleput?" 

"Only thirty-five miles from here. But stay ?" 


"I begin to doubt whether His Holiness would grant you 
an audience. Of course I shall do my utmost to persuade him. 
But " 

"I am a European!" I finish the sentence for him. "I 

" You will take the risk of a rebuff?" he asks, a little 

"Certainly. Let us go." 

After a light meal we set out for Chingleput. I ply my 
literary companion with questions about the man I hope to see 
this day. I learn that Shri Shankara lives a life of almost 
ascetic plainness as regards food and clothing, but the dignity 
of his high office requires him to move in regal panoply when 
travelling. He is followed then by a retinue of mounted 
elephants and camels, pundits and their pupils, heralds and 
camp followers generally. Wherever he goes he becomes the 
magnet for crowds of visitors from the surrounding localities. 
They come for spiritual, mental, physical and financial assist- 
ance. Thousands of rupees are daily laid at his feet by the 
rich, but because he has taken the vow of poverty, this income 
is applied to worthy purposes. He relieves the poor, assists 
education, repairs decaying temples and improves the condition 
of those artificial rain-fed pools which are so useful in the river- 
less tracts of South India. His mission, however, is primarily 
spiritual. At every stopping-place he endeavours to inspire 
the people to a deeper understanding of their heritage of 
Hinduism, as well as to elevate their hearts and minds. He 
usually gives a discourse at the local temple and then privately 
answers the multitude of querents who flock to him. 

I learn that Shri Shankara is the sixty-sixth bearer of the title 
in direct line of succession from the original Shankara. To get 
his office and power into the right perspective within my mind, 
I am forced to ask Venkataramani several questions about the 
founder of the line. It appears that the first Shankara flourished 
over one thousand years ago, and that he was one of the greatest 
of the historical Brahmin sages. He might be described as a 
rational mystic, and as a philosopher of first rank. He found 


the Hinduism of his time in a disordered and decrepit state, 
with its spiritual vitality fast fading. It seems that he was born 
for a mission. From the age of eighteen he wandered through- 
out India on foot, arguing with the intelligentsia and the priests 
of every district through which he passed, teaching the doctrines 
of his own creation, and acquiring a considerable following. 
His intellect was so acute that, usually, he was more than a 
match for those he met. He was fortunate enough to be 
accepted and honoured as a prophet during his lifetime, and 
not after the life had flickered out of his throat. 

He was a man with many purposes. Although he cham- 
pioned the chief religion of his country, he strongly condemned 
the pernicious practices which had grown up under its cloak. 
He tried to bring people into the way of virtue and exposed the 
futility of mere reliance on ornate rituals, unaccompanied by 
personal effort. He broke the rules of caste by performing the 
obsequies at the death of his own mother, for which the priests 
excommunicated him. This fearless young man was a worthy 
successor to Buddha, the first famous caste breaker. In 
opposition to the priests he taught that every human being, 
irrespective of caste or colour, could attain to the grace of 
God and to knowledge of the highest Truth. He founded no 
special creed but held that every religion was a path to God, 
if sincerely held and followed into its mystic inwardness. He 
elaborated a complete and subtle system of philosophy in 
order to prove his points. He has left a large literary legacy, 
which is honoured in every city of sacred learning throughout 
the country. The pundits greatly treasure his philosophical 
and religious bequest, although they naturally quibble and 
quarrel over its meaning. 

Shankara travelled throughout India wearing an ochre robe 
and carrying a pilgrim's staff. As a clever piece of strategy, 
he established four great institutions at the four points of the 
compass. There was one at Badrinath in the North, at Puri 
in the East, and so on. The central headquarters, together 
with a temple and monastery, were established in the South, 
where he began his work. To this day the South has remained 
the holy of holies of Hinduism. From these institutions there 
would emerge, when the rainy seasons were over, trained bands 
of monks who travelled the country to carry Shankara's message. 
This remarkable man died at the early age of thirty-two, though 
one legend has it that he simply disappeared. 

The value of this information becomes apparent when I 
learn that his successor, whom I am to see this day, carries 


on the same work and the same teaching. In this connection, 
there exists a strange tradition. The first Shankara promised 
his disciples that he would still abide with them in spirit, and 
that he would accomplish this by the mysterious process of 
"overshadowing " his successors. A somewhat similar theory 
is attached to the office of the Grand Lama of Tibet. The 
predecessor in office, during his last dying moments, names the 
one worthy to follow him. The selected person is usually a 
lad of tender years, who is then taken in hand by the best 
teachers available and given a thorough training to fit him for 
his exalted post. His training is not only religious and intel- 
lectual, but also along the lines of higher Yoga and meditation 
practices. This training is then followed by a life of great 
activity in the service of his people. It is a singular fact that 
through all the many centuries this line has been established, 
not a single holder of the title has ever been known to have 
other than the highest and the most selfless character. 

Venkataramani embellishes his narrative with stories of the 
remarkable gifts which Shri Shankara the Sixty-sixth possesses. 
There is an account of the miraculous healing of his own cousin. 
The latter has been crippled by rheumatism and confined to his 
bed for many years. Shri Shankara visits him, touches his body, 
and within three hours the invalid is so far better that he gets out 
of bed; soon, he is completely cured. 

There is the further assertion that His Holiness is credited 
with the power of reading the thoughts of other persons; at 
any rate, Venkataramani fully believes this to be true. 


We enter Chingleput through a palm-fringed highway and 
find it a tangle of whitewashed houses, huddled red roofs and 
narrow lanes. We get down and walk into the centre of the city, 
where large crowds are gathered together. I am taken into 
a house where a group of secretaries are busily engaged handling 
the huge correspondence which follows His Holiness from his 
headquarters at Kumbakonam. I wait in a chairless ante- 
room while Venkataramani sends one of the secretaries with 
a message to Shri Shankara. More than half an hour passes 
before the man returns with the reply that the audience I seek 
cannot be granted. His Holiness does not see his way to re- 
ceiving a European; moreover, there are two hundred people 
waiting for interviews already. Many persons have been staying 


in the town overnight in order to secure their interviews. The 
secretary is profuse in his apologies. 

I philosophically accept the situation, but Venkataramani 
says that he will try to get into the presence of His Holiness 
as a privileged friend, and then plead my cause. Several 
members of the crowd murmur unpleasantly when they 
become aware of his intention to pass into the coveted house out 
of his turn. After much talk and babbling explanations, he 
wins through. He returns eventually, smiling and victorious. 

"His Holiness will make a special exception in your case. 
He will see you in about one hour's time." 

I fill the time with some idle wandering in the picturesque 
lanes which run down to the chief temple. I meet some 
servants who are leading a train of grey elephants and big buff- 
brown camels to a drinking-place. Someone points out to me 
the magnificent animal which carries the Spiritual Head of 
South India on his travels. He rides in regal fashion, borne 
aloft in an opulent howdah on the back of a tall elephant. It 
is finely covered with ornate trappings, rich cloths and gold 
embroideries. I watch the dignified old creature step forward 
along the street. Its trunk coils up and comes down again as it 

Remembering the time-worn custom which requires one to 
bring a little offering of fruits, flowers or sweetmeats when 
visiting a spiritual personage, I procure a gift to place before 
my august host. Oranges and flowers are the only things in 
sight and I collect as much as I can conveniently carry. 

In the crowd which presses outside His Holiness's temporary 
residence, I forget another important custom. "Remove 
your shoes," Venkataramani reminds me promptly. I take them 
off and leave them out in the street, hoping that they will still 
be there when I return ! 

We pass through a tiny doorway and enter a bare ante- 
room. At the far end there is a dimly lit enclosure, where I 
behold a short figure standing in the shadows. I approach 
closer to him, put down my little offering and bow low in 
salutation. There is an artistic value in this ceremony which 
greatly appeals to me, apart from its necessity as an expression 
of respect and as a harmless courtesy. I know well that Shri 
Shankara is no Pope, for there is no such thing in Hinduism, 
but he is teacher and inspirer of a religious flock of vast dimen- 
sions. The whole of South India bows to his tutelage. 



I look at him in silence. This short man is clad in the ochre- 
coloured robe of a monk and leans his weight on a friar's staff. 
I have been told that he is on the right side of forty, hence I am 
surprised to find his hair quite grey. 

His noble face, pictured in grey and brown, takes an honoured 
place in the long portrait gallery of my memory. That elusive 
element which the French aptly term spirituel is present in this 
face. His expression is modest and mild, the large dark eyes 
being extraordinarily tranquil and beautiful. The nose is 
short, straight and classically regular. There is a rugged little 
beard on his chin, and the gravity of his mouth is most notice- 
able. Such a face might have belonged to one of the saints 
who graced the Christian Church during the Middle Ages, 
except that this one possesses the added quality of intellect- 
uality. I suppose we of the practical West would say that he has 
the eyes of a dreamer. Somehow, I feel in an inexplicable way 
that there is something more than mere dreams behind those 
heavy lids. 

"Your Holiness has been very kind to receive me," I remark, 
by way of introduction. 

He turns to my companion, the writer, and says something 
in the vernacular. I guess its meaning correctly. 

"His Holiness understands your English, but he is too afraid 
that you will not understand his own. So he prefers to have 
me translate his answers," says Venkataramani. 

I shall sweep through the earlier phases of this interview, 
because they are more concerned with myself than with this 
Hindu Primate. He asks about my personal experiences in 
the country; he is very interested in ascertaining the exact 
impressions which Indian people and institutions make upon 
a foreigner. I give him my candid impressions, mixing praise 
and criticism freely and frankly. 

The conversation then flows into wider channels and I am 
much surprised to find that he regularly reads English news- 
papers, and that he is well informed upon current affairs 
in the outside world. Indeed, he is not unaware of what the 
latest noise at Westminster is about, and he knows also through 
what painful travail the troublous infant of democracy is 
passing in Europe. 

I remember Venkataramani's firm belief that Shri Shankara 


possesses prophetic insight. It touches my fancy to press for 
some opinion about the world's future. 

"When do you think that the political and economic con- 
ditions everywhere will begin to improve?" 

"A change for the better is not easy to come by quickly," 
he replies. " It is a process which must needs take some time. 
How can things improve when the nations spend more each 
year on the weapons of death?" 

"There is nevertheless much talk of disarmament to-day. 
Does that count?" 

"If you scrap your battleships and let your cannons rust, 
that will not stop war. People will continue to fight, even if 
they have to use sticks!" 

"But what can be done to help matters?" 

"Nothing but spiritual understanding between one nation 
and another, and between rich and poor, will produce goodwill 
and thus bring real peace and prosperity." 

"That seems far off. Our outlook is hardly cheerful, then?" 

His Holiness rests his arm a little more heavily upon his 

"There is still God," he remarks gently. 

" If there is, He seems very far away," I boldly protest. 

"God has nothing but love towards mankind," comes the 
soft answer. 

"Judging by the unhappiness and wretchedness which 
afflict the world to-day, He has nothing but indifference," 
I break out impulsively, unable to keep the bitter force of irony 
out of my voice. His Holiness looks at me strangely. Immedi- 
ately I regret my hasty words. 

"The eyes of a patient man see deeper. God will use human 
instruments to adjust matters at the appointed hour. The 
turmoil among nations, the moral wickedness among people 
and the suffering of miserable millions will provoke, as a re- 
action, some great divinely inspired man to come to the rescue. 
In this sense, every century has its own saviour. The process 
works like a law of physics. The greater the wretchedness 
caused by spiritual ignorance, materialism, the greater will be 
the man who will arise to help the world." 

"Then do you expect someone to arise in our time, too?" 

"In our century," he corrects. "Assuredly. The need of 
the world is so great and its spiritual darkness is so thick, that 
an inspired man of God will surely arise." 

"Is it your opinion, then, that men are becoming more 
degraded? " I query. 


"No, I do not think so," he replied tolerantly. "There is 
an indwelling divine soul in man which, in the end, must bring 
him back to God." 

"But there are ruffians in our Western cities who behave as 
though there were indwelling demons in them," I counter, 
thinking of the modern gangster. 

"Do not blame people so much as the environments into 
which they are born. Their surroundings and circumstances 
force them to become worse than they really are. That is true 
of both the East and West. Society must be brought into tune 
with a higher note. Materialism must be balanced by idealism; 
there is no other real cure for the world's difficulties. The 
troubles into which countries are everywhere being plunged 
are really the agonies which will force this change, just as 
failure is frequently a sign-post pointing to another road." 

"You would like people to introduce spiritual principles 
into their worldly dealings, then?" 

"Quite so. It is not impracticable, because it is the only way 
to bring about results which will satisfy everyone in the end, 
and which will not speedily disappear. And if there were more 
men who had found spiritual light in the world, it would spread 
more quickly. India, to its honour, supports and respects its 
spiritual men, though less so than in former times. If all the 
world were to do the same, and to take its guidance from men 
of spiritual vision, then all the world would soon find peace 
and grow prosperous." 

Our conversation trails on. I am quick to notice that Shri 
Shankara does not decry the West in order to exalt the East, as 
so many in his land do. He admits that each half of the globe 
possesses its own set of virtues and vices, and that in this way 
they are roughly equal! He hopes that a wiser generation will 
fuse the best points of Asiatic and European civilizations into a 
higher and balanced social scheme. 

I drop the subject and ask permission for some personal 
questions. It is granted without difficulty. 

"How long has Your Holiness held this title?" 

"Since 1907. At that time I was only twelve years old. 
Four years after my appointment I retired to a village on the 
banks of the Cauvery, where I gave myself up to meditation 
and study for three years. Then only did my public work 

"You rarely remain at your headquarters in Kumbakonam 
I take it? " 

"The reason for that is that I was invited by the Maharajah 


of Nepal in 1918 to be his guest for a while. I accepted and 
since then have been travelling slowly towards his state in the 
far north. But see! - during all those years I have not been 
able to advance more than a few hundred miles, because the 
tradition of my office requires that I stay in every village and 
town which I pass on the route or which invites me, if it is not 
too far off. I must give a spiritual discourse in the local temple 
and some teaching to the inhabitants." 

I broach the matter of my quest and His Holiness questions 
me about the different Yogis or holy men I have so far met. 
After that, I frankly tell him: 

"I would like to meet someone who has high attainments in 
Yoga and can give some sort of proof or demonstration of them. 
There are many of your holy men who can only give one more 
talk when they are asked for this proof. Am I asking too 

The tranquil eyes meet mine. 

There is a pause for a whole minute. His Holiness fingers 
his beard. 

" If you are seeking initiation into real Yoga of the higher 
kind, then you are not seeking too much. Your earnestness will 
help you, while I can perceive the strength of your determina- 
tion; but a light is beginning to awaken within you which will 
guide you to what you want, without doubt." 

I am not sure whether I correctly understand him. 
"So far I have depended on myself for guidance. Even some 
of your ancient sages say that there is no other god than that 
which is within ourselves," I hazard. 
And the answer swiftly comes: 

"God is everywhere. How can one limit Him to one's own 
self? He supports the entire universe." 

I feel that I am getting out of my depth and immediately 
turn the talk away from this semi-theological strain. 
"What is the most practical course for me to take? " 
"Go on with your travels. When you have finished them, 
think of the various Yogis and holy men you have met; then 
pick out the one who makes most appeal to you. Return to 
him, and he will surely bestow his initiation upon you." 
I look at his calm profile and admire its singular serenity. 
"But suppose, Your Holiness, that none of them makes 
sufficient appeal to me. What then? " 

"In that case you will have to go on alone until God Himself 
initiates you. Practise meditation regularly; contemplate the 
higher things with love in your heart; think often of the soul 


and that will help to bring you to it. The best time to practise 
is the hour of waking; the next best time is the hour of twilight. 
The world is calmer at those times and will disturb your 
meditations less." 

He gazes benevolently at me. I begin to envy the saintly 
peace which dwells on his bearded face. Surely, his heart has 
never known the devastating upheavals which have scarred 
mine? I am stirred to ask him impulsively: 

"If I fail, may I then turn to you for assistance?" 

Shri Shankara gently shakes his head. 

"I am at the head of a public institution, a man whose time 
no longer belongs to himself. My activities demand almost all 
my time. For years I have spent only three hours in sleep 
each night. How can I take personal pupils? You must find a 
master who devotes his time to them." 

"B ut I am told that real masters are rare, and that a European 
is unlikely to find them." 

He nods his assent to my statement, but adds: 

"Truth exists. It can be found." 

"Can you not direct me to such a master, one who you know 
is competent to give me proofs of the reality of higher 

His Holiness does not reply till after an interval of protracted 

"Yes. I know of only two masters in India who could give 
you what you wish. One of them lives in Benares, hidden away 
in a large house, which is itself hidden among spacious grounds. 
Few people are permitted to obtain access to him; certainly, 
no European has yet been able to intrude upon his seclusion. I 
could send you to him, but I fear that he may refuse to admit a 

"And the other ?" My interest is strangely stirred. 

"The other man lives in the interior, farther south. I 
visited him once and know him to be a high master. I recom- 
mend that you go to him." 

"Who is he?" 

"He is called the Maharishee. 1 I have not met him, but 
know him to be a high master. Shall I provide you with full 
instructions, so that you may discover him?" 

A picture flashes suddenly before my mind's eye. 

I see the yellow-robed friar, who has vainly persuaded me to 

1 The title is derived from Sanskrit. Maha means great: Rishee 
means sage or seer. Hence, the Great Sage. 


accompany him to his teacher. I hear him murmuring the 
name of a hill. It is: "The Hill of the Holy Beacon." 

"Many thanks, Your Holiness," I rejoin, "but I have a 
guide who comes from the place." 

"Then you will go there?" 

I hesitate. 

"All arrangements have been made for my departure from 
the South to-morrow," I mutter uncertainly. 

"In that case I have a request to make." 

"With pleasure." 

"Promise me that you will not leave South India before you 
have met the Maharishee." 

I read in his eyes a sincere desire to help me. The promise 
is given. 

A benignant smile crosses his face. 

"Do not be anxious. You shall discover that which you 

A murmur from the crowd which is in the street penetrates 
the house. 

"I have taken up too much of your valuable time," I 
apologize. " I am indeed sorry." 

Shri Shankara's grave mouth relaxes. He follows me into 
the ante-room and whispers something into the ear of my 
companion. I catch my name in the sentence. 

At the door I turn to bow in farewell salutation. His 
Holiness calls me back to receive a parting message: 

"You shall always remember me, and I shall always 
remember you!" 

And so, hearing these cryptic and puzzling words, I reluc- 
tantly withdraw from this interesting man, whose entire life 
has been dedicated to God from childhood. He is a pontiff 
who cares not for worldly power, because he has renounced 
all and resigned all. Whatever material things are given to 
him, he at once gives again to those who need them. His 
beautiful and gentle personality will surely linger in my memory. 

I wander about Chingleput till evening, exploring its 
artistic, old-world beauty, and then seek a final glimpse of 
His Holiness before returning home. 

I find him in the largest temple of the city. The slim, 
modest, yellow-robed figure is addressing a huge concourse of 
men, women and children. Utter silence prevails among the 
large audience. I cannot understand his vernacular words, 
but I can understand that he is holding the deep attention of 
all present, from the intellectual Brahmin to the illiterate 


peasant. I do not know, but I hazard the guess that he speaks 
on the profoundest topics in the simplest manner, for such is 
the character I read in him. 

And yet, though I appreciate his beautiful soul, I envy the 
simple faith of his vast audience. Life, apparently, never 
brings them deep moods of doubt. God is; and there the 
matter ends. They do not appear to know what it means to 
go through dark nights of the soul, when the world seems like 
the grim scene of a jungle-like struggle; when God recedes 
into shadowy nothingness; and when man's own existence 
seems nothing more than a fitful passage across this small, 
transient fragment of the universe which we call Earth. 

We drive out of Chingleput under an indigo sky gemmed 
with stars. I listen to palms majestically waving their branches 
over the water's edge in an unexpected breeze. 

My companion suddenly breaks the silence between us. 

"You are indeed lucky!" 


"Because this is the first interview which His Holiness has 
granted to a European writer." 

"Well ?" 

"That brings his blessing upon you!" 


It is nearly midnight when I return home. I take a last 
glimpse overhead. The stars stud the vast dome of the sky 
in countless myriads. Nowhere in Europe can one see them 
in such overwhelming numbers. I run up the steps leading 
to the veranda, flashing my pocket torch. 

Out of the darkness, a crouching figure rises and greets 

"Subramanya!" I exclaim, startled. "What are you 
doing here? " The ochre-robed Yogi indulges in one of his 
tremendous grins. 

"Did I not promise to visit you, sir? "He reminds me 

"Of course!" 

In the large room, I fire a question at him. 

"Your master - is he called the Maharishee?" 

It is now his turn to draw back, astonished. 

"How do you know, sir? Where could you have learnt 


"Never mind. To-morrow we both start for his place. 
I shall change my plans." 

"This is joyful news, sir." 

"But I shall not stay there long, though. A few days, 

I fling a few more questions at him during the next half-hour, 
and then, thoroughly tired, go to bed. Subramanya is quite 
content to sleep on a piece of palm matting which lies on the 
floor. He wraps himself up in a thin cotton cloth, which 
serves at once as a mattress, sheet and blanket, and disdains 
my offer of more comfortable bedding. 

The next thing of which I am aware is suddenly awakening. 
The room is totally dark. I feel my nerves strangely tense. 
The atmosphere around me seems like electrified air. I pull 
my watch from under the pillow and, by the glow of its radium- 
lit dial, discover the time to be a quarter to three. It is then 
that I become conscious of some bright object at the foot of 
the bed. I immediately sit up and look straight at it. 

My astounded gaze meets the face and form of His Holiness 
Shri Shankara. It is clearly and unmistakably visible. He 
does not appear to be some ethereal ghost, but rather a solid 
human being. There is a mysterious luminosity around the 
figure which separates it from the surrounding darkness. 

Surely the vision is an impossible one? Have I not left him 
at Chingleput? I close my eyes tightly in an effort to test the 
matter. There is no difference and I still see him quite 

Let it suffice that I receive the sense of a benign and friendly 
presence. I open my eyes and regard the kindly figure in the 
loose yellow robe. 

The face alters, for the lips smile and seem to say: 

"Be humble and then you shall find what you seek!" 

Why do I feel that a living human being is thus addressing 
me? Why do I not regard it as a ghost, at least? 

The vision disappears as mysteriously as it has come. It 
leaves me feeling exalted, happy and unperturbed by its 
supernormal nature. Shall I dismiss it as a dream? What 
matters it? 

There is no more sleep for me this night. I lie awake 
pondering over the day's meeting, over the memorable inter- 
view with His Holiness Shri Shankara of Kumbakonam, the 
Hierarch of God to the simple people of South India. 



AT the Madras terminus of the South Indian Railway, 
Subramanya and I board a carriage on the Ceylon 
boat train. For several hours we roll onwards through 
the most variegated scenes. Green stretches of growing rice 
alternate with gaunt red hills, shady plantations of stately 
coconut trees are followed by scattered peasants toiling in 
the paddy fields. 

As I sit at the window, the swift Indian dusk begins to blot 
out the landscape and I turn my head to muse of other things. 
I begin to wonder at the strange things which have happened 
since I have worn the golden ring which Brama has given me. 
For my plans have changed their face; a concatenation of 
unexpected circumstances has arisen to drive me farther South, 
instead of going farther East as I have intended. Is it possible, 
I ask myself, that these golden claws hold a stone which really 
possesses the mysterious power which the Yogi has claimed 
for it? Although I endeavour to keep an open mind, it is 
difficult for any Westerner of scientifically trained mind to 
credit the idea. I dismiss the speculation from my mind, but 
do not succeed in driving away the uncertainty which lurks at 
the back of my thoughts. Why is it that my footsteps have been 
so strangely guided to the mountain hermitage whither I am 
travelling? Why is it that two men, who both wear the yellow 
robe, have been coupled as destiny's agents to the extent of 
directing my reluctant eyes towards the Marishee? I use this 
word destiny, not in its common sense, but because I am at a 
loss for a better one. Past experience has taught me full well 
that seemingly unimportant happenings sometimes play an 
unexpected part in composing the picture of one's life. 

We leave the train, and with it the main line, forty miles from 
Pondicherry, that pathetic little remnant of France's territorial 
possessions in India. We go over to a quiet, little-used branch 
railroad which runs into the interior, and wait for nearly two 



hours in the semi-gloom of a bleak waiting-room. The holy 
man paces along the bleaker platform outside, his tall figure 
looking half-ghost, half-real in the starlight. At last the ill- 
timed train, which puffs infrequently up and down the line, 
carries us away. There are but few other passengers. 

I fall into a fitful, dream-broken sleep which continues for 
some hours until my companion awakens me. We descend at a 
little wayside station and the train screeches and grinds away into 
the silent darkness. Night's life has not quite run out and so we 
sit in a bare and comfortless little waiting-room, whose small 
kerosene lamp we light ourselves. 

We wait patiently while day fights with darkness for 
supremacy. When a pale dawn emerges at last, creeping bit by 
bit through a small barred window in the back of our room, I 
peer out at such portion of our surroundings as becomes 
visible. Out of the morning haze there rises the faint outline 
of a solitary hill, apparently some few miles distant. The base 
is of impressive extent and the body of ample girth, but the 
head is not to be seen, being yet thick-shrouded in the dawn 

My guide ventures outside, where he discovers a man loudly 
snoring in his tiny bullock cart. A shout or two brings the 
driver back to this mundane existence, thus making him aware 
of business waiting in the offing. When informed of our des- 
tination, he seems but too eager to transport us. I gaze some- 
what dubiously at his narrow conveyance - a bamboo canopy 
balanced on two wheels. Anyway, we clamber aboard and the 
man bundles the luggage after us. The holy man manages to 
compress himself into the minimum space which a human 
being can possibly occupy; I crouch under the low canopy 
with legs dangling out in space; the driver squats upon the 
shaft between his bulls with his chin almost touching his 
knees, and the problem of accommodation being thus solved 
more or less satisfactorily, we bid him be off. 

Our progress is anything but rapid, despite the best efforts 
of a pair of strong, small, white bullocks. These charming 
creatures are very useful as draught animals in the interior of 
India, because they endure heat better than horses and are less 
fastidious in the matter of diet. The customs of the quiet 
villages and small townships of the interior have not changed 
very much in the course of centuries. The bullock carts which 
transported the traveller from place to place in B.C. 100, transport 
him still, two thousand years after. 
Our driver, whose face is the colour of beaten bronze, has 


taken much pride in his animals. Their long, beautifully 
curved horns are adorned with shapely gilt ornaments; their 
thin legs have tinkling brass bells tied to them. He guides 
them by means of a rein threaded through their nostrils. 
While their feet merrily jog away upon the dust-laden road, I 
watch the quick tropic dawn come on apace. 

An attractive landscape shapes itself both on our right and 
left. No drab flat plain this, for heights and hillocks are not 
long absent from the eyes whenever one searches the horizon's 
length. The road traverses a district of red earth dotted with 
terrains of scrubby thorn-bush and a few bright emerald paddy 

A peasant with toil-worn face passes us. No doubt, he is 
going out to his long day's work in the fields. Soon we overtake 
a girl with a brass water pitcher mounted upon her head. A 
single vermilion robe is wrapped around her body, but her 
shoulders are left bare. A blood-coloured ruby ornaments one 
nostril, and a pair of gold bracelets gleam on her arms in the 
pale morning sunlight. The blackness of her skin reveals her 
as a Dravidian - as indeed most of the inhabitants of these 
parts probably are, save the Brahmins and Muhammedans. 
These Dravidian girls are usually gay and happy by nature. I 
find them more talkative than their brown countrywomen and 
more musical in voice. 

The girl stares at us with unfeigned surprise and I guess that 
Europeans rarely visit this part of the interior. 

And so we ride on until the little township is reached. Its 
houses are prosperous-looking and arranged into streets which 
cluster around two sides of an enormous temple. If I am not 
mistaken, the latter is a quarter of a mile long. I gather a 
rough conception of its architectural massiveness a while later 
when we reach one of its spacious gateways. We halt for a 
minute or two and I peer inside to register some fleeting 
glimpses of the place. Its strangeness is as impressive as its 
size. Never before have I seen a structure like this. A vast 
quadrangle surrounds the enormous interior, which looks like a 
labyrinth. I perceive that the four high enclosing walls have 
been scorched and coloured by hundreds of years of exposure 
to the fierce tropical sunshine. Each wall is pierced by a single 
gateway, above which rises a queer superstructure consisting of 
a giant pagoda. The latter seems strangely like an ornate, 
sculptured pyramid. Its lower part is built of stone, but the 
upper portion seems to be thickly-plastered brickwork. The 
pagoda is divided into many storeys, but the entire surface is 


profusely decorated with a variety of figures and carvings. In 
addition to these four entrance towers, I count no less than five 
others which rise up within the interior of the temple. How 
curiously they remind one of Egyptian pyramids in the 
similarity of outline! 

My last glimpse is of long roofed cloisters, of serried ranks of 
flat stone pillars in large numbers, of a great central enclosure, 
of dim shrines and dark corridors and many little buildings. I 
make a mental note to explore this interesting place before 

The bullocks trot off and we emerge into open country again. 
The scenes which we pass are quite pretty. The road is covered 
with red dust; on either side there are low bushes and occa- 
sional clumps of tall trees. There are many birds hidden among 
the branches, for I hear the flutter of their wings, as well as 
the last notes of that beautiful chorus which is their morning 
song all over the world. 

Dotted along the route are a number of charming little 
wayside shrines. The differences of architectural style surprise 
me, until I conclude that they have been erected during 
changing epochs. Some are highly ornate, over-decorated and 
elaborately carved in the usual Hindu manner, but the larger 
ones are supported by flat-surfaced pillars which I have seen 
nowhere else but in the South. There are even two or three 
shrines whose classical severity of outline is almost Grecian. 

I judge that we have now travelled about five or six miles, 
when we reach the lower slopes of the hill whose vague outline 
I had seen from the station. It rises like a reddish-brown giant 
in the clear morning sunlight. The mists have now rolled 
away, revealing a broad skyline at the top. It is an isolated 
upland of red soil and brown rock, barren for the most part, 
with large tracts almost treeless, and with masses of stone split 
into great boulders tossed about in chaotic disorder. 

"Arunachala! The sacred red mountain!" exclaims my 
companion, noticing the direction of my gaze. A fervent 
expression of adoration passes across his face. He is momen- 
tarily rapt in ecstasy, like some medieval saint. 

I ask him, "Does the name mean anything?" 

"I have just given you the meaning," he replies with a smile. 
"The name is composed of two words,' Aruna' and 'Achala,' 
which mean red mountain, and since it is also the name of the 
presiding deity of the temple, its full translation should be 
'sacred red mountain.'" 

"Then where does the holy beacon come in?" 


"Ah! Once a year the temple priests celebrate their central 
festival. Immediately that occurs within the temple, a huge 
fire blazes out on top of the mountain, its flame being fed with 
vast quantities of butter and camphor. It burns for many 
days and can be seen for many miles around. Whoever sees it, 
at once prostrates himself before it. It symbolizes the fact 
that this mountain is sacred ground, overshadowed by a great 

The hill now towers over our heads. It is not without its 
rugged grandeur, this lonely peak patterned with red, brown 
and grey boulders, thrusting its flat head thousands of feet into 
the pearly sky. Whether the holy man's words have affected 
me or whether for some unaccountable cause, I find a queer 
feeling of awe arising in me as I meditate upon the picture of 
the sacred mountain, as I gaze up wonderingly at the steep 
incline of Arunachala. 

"Do you know," whispers my companion, "that this 
mountain is not only esteemed holy ground, but the local 
traditions dare to assert that the gods placed it there to mark the 
spiritual centre of the world!" 

This little bit of legend forces me to smile. How naive it is 

At length I learn that we are approaching the Maharishee's 
hermitage. We turn aside from the road and move down a 
rough path which brings us to a thick grove of coconut and 
mango trees. We cross this until the path suddenly comes to 
an abrupt termination before an unlocked gate. The driver 
descends, pushes the gate open, and then drives us into a large 
unpaved courtyard. I stretch out my cramped limbs, descend 
to the ground, and look around. 

The cloistered domain of the Maharishee is hemmed in at 
the front by closely growing trees and a thickly clustered 
garden; it is screened at the back and side by hedgerows of 
shrub and cactus, while away to the West stretches the scrub 
jungle and what appears to be dense forest. It is most 
picturesquely placed on a lower spur of the hill. Secluded 
and apart, it seems a fitting spot for those who wish to pursue 
profound themes of meditation. 

Two small buildings with thatched roofs occupy the left side 
of the courtyard. Adjoining them stands a long, modern 
structure, whose red-tiled roof comes sharply down into over- 
hanging eaves. A small veranda stretches across a part of the 

The centre of the courtyard is marked by a large well. I 
watch a boy, who is naked to the waist and dark-skinned to the 


point of blackness, slowly draw a bucket of water to the surface 
with the aid of a creaking hand windlass. 

The sound of our entry brings a few men out of the buildings 
into the courtyard. Their dress is extremely varied. One is 
garbed in nothing but a ragged loin-cloth, but another is pros- 
perously attired in a white silk robe. They stare questioningly 
at us. My guide grins hugely, evidently enjoying their astonish- 
ment. He crosses to them and says something in Tamil. The 
expression on their faces changes immediately, for they smile 
in unison and beam at me with pleasure. I like their faces and 
their bearing. 

"We shall now go into the hall of the Maharishee," announces 
the holy man of the yellow robe, bidding me follow him. I 
pause outside the uncovered stone veranda and remove my 
shoes. I gather up the little pile of fruits which I have brought 
as an offering, and pass into an open doorway. 


Twenty brown-and-black faces flash their eyes upon us. 
Their owners are squatting in half-circles on a red-tiled floor. 
They are grouped at a respectful distance from the corner 
which lies farthest to the right hand of the door. Apparently 
everyone has been facing this corner just prior to our entry. 
I glance there for a moment and perceive a seated figure upon a 
long white divan, but it suffices to tell me that here indeed is 
the Maharishee. 

My guide approaches the divan, prostrates himself prone on 
the floor, and buries his eyes under folded hands. 

The divan is but a few paces away from a broad high window 
in the end wall. The light falls clearly upon the Maharishee 
and I can take in every detail of his profile, for he is seated gazing 
rigidly through the window in the precise direction whence we 
have come this morning. His head does not move, so, thinking 
to catch his eye and greet him as I offer the fruits, I move 
quietly over to the window, place the gift before him, and 
retreat a pace or two. 

A small brass brazier stands before his couch. It is filled 
with burning charcoal, and a pleasant odour tells me that some 
aromatic powder has been thrown on the glowing embers. 
Close by is an incense burner filled with joss sticks. Threads 
of bluish grey smoke arise and float in the air, but the pungent 
perfume is quite different. 


I fold a thin cotton blanket upon the floor and sit down, 
gazing expectantly at the silent figure in such a rigid attitude 
upon the couch. The Maharishee's body is almost nude, 
except for a thin, narrow loin-cloth, but that is common enough 
in these parts. His skin is slightly copper-coloured, yet quite 
fair in comparison with that of the average South Indian. I 
judge him to be a tall man; his age somewhere in the early 
fifties. His head, which is covered with closely cropped grey 
hair, is well formed. The high and broad expanse of fore- 
head gives intellectual distinction to his personality. His 
features are more European than Indian. Such is my first 

The couch is covered with white cushions and the Mahar- 
ishee's feet rest upon a magnificently marked tiger skin. 

Pin-drop silence prevails throughout the long hall. The sage 
remains perfectly still, motionless, quite undisturbed at our 
arrival. A swarthy disciple sits on the floor at the other side 
of the divan. He breaks into the quietude by beginning to 
pull at a rope which works a punkah-fan made of bamboo 
matting. The fan is fixed to a wooden beam and suspended 
immediately above the sage's head. I listen to its rhythmic 
purring, the while I look full into the eyes of the seated figure 
in the hope of catching his notice. They are dark brown, 
medium-sized and wide open. 

If he is aware of my presence, he betrays no hint, gives no 
sign. His body is supernaturally quiet, as steady as a statue. 
Not once does he catch my gaze, for his eyes continue to look 
into remote space, and infinitely remote it seems. I find this 
scene strangely reminiscent. Where have I seen its like? 
I rummage through the portrait gallery of memory and find 
the picture of the Sage Who Never Speaks, that recluse whom 
I visited in his isolated cottage near Madras, that man whose 
body seemed cut from stone, so motionless it was. There is 
a curious similarity in this unfamiliar stillness of body which 
I now behold in the Maharishee. 

It is an ancient theory of mine that one can take the inventory 
of a man's soul from his eyes. But before those of the Mahar- 
ishee I hesitate, puzzled and baffled. 

The minutes creep by with unutterable slowness. First 
they mount up to a half-hour by the hermitage clock which 
hangs on a wall; this too passes by and becomes a whole 
hour. Yet no one in the hall seems to stir; certainly no 
one dares to speak. I reach a point of visual concentration 
where I have forgotten the existence of all save this silent 


figure on the couch. My offering of fruits remains unregarded 
on the small carved table which stands before him. 

My guide has given me no warning that his master will 
receive me as I had been received by the Sage Who Never 
Speaks. It has come upon me abruptly, this strange reception 
characterized by complete indifference. The first thought 
which would come into the mind of any European, "Is this 
man merely posing for the benefit of his devotees?" crosses my 
mind once or twice but I soon rule it out. He is certainly in 
a trance condition, though my guide has not informed me that 
his master indulges in trances. The next thought which 
occupies my mind, "Is this state of mystical contemplation 
nothing more than meaningless vacancy?" has a longer sway 
but I let it go for the simple reason that I cannot answer it. 

There is something in this man which holds my attention 
as steel filings are held by a magnet. I cannot turn my gaze 
away from him. My initial bewilderment, my perplexity at 
being totally ignored, slowly fade away as this strange fascina- 
tion begins to grip me more firmly. But it is not till the second 
hour of the uncommon scene that I become aware of a silent, 
resistless change which is taking place within my mind. One 
by one, the questions which I have prepared in the train with 
such meticulous accuracy drop away. For it does not now seem 
to matter whether they are asked or not, and it does not seem 
to matter whether I solve the problems which have hitherto 
troubled me. I know only that a steady river of quietness 
seems to be flowing near me, that a great peace is penetrating 
the inner reaches of my being, and that my thought-tortured 
brain is beginning to arrive at some rest. 

How small seem those questions which I have asked myself 
with such frequency ! How petty grows the panorama of the 
lost years! I perceive with sudden clarity that the intellect 
creates its own problems and then makes itself miserable trying 
to solve them. This is indeed a novel concept to enter the mind 
of one who has hitherto placed such high value upon intellect. 

I surrender myself to the steadily deepening sense of rest- 
fulness until two hours have passed. The passage of time now 
provokes no irritation, because I feel that the chains of mind- 
made problems are being broken and thrown away. And then, 
little by little, a new question takes the field of consciousness. 

"Does this man, the Maharishee, emanate the perfume of 
spiritual peace as the flower emanates fragrance from its 

I do not consider myself a competent person to apprehend 


spirituality, but I have personal reactions to other people. 
This dawning suspicion that the mysterious peace which has 
arisen within me must be attributed to the geographical situation 
in which I am now placed, is my reaction to the personality of 
the Maharishee. I begin to wonder whether, by some radio- 
activity of the soul, some unknown telepathic process, the still- 
ness which invades the troubled waters of my own soul really 
comes from him. Yet he remains completely impassive, 
completely unaware of my very existence, it seems. 

Comes the first ripple. Someone approaches me and 
whispers in my ear, "Did you not wish to question the 

He may have lost patience, this quondam guide of mine. 
More likely, he imagines that I, a restless European, have 
reached the limit of my own patience. Alas, my inquisitive 
friend! Truly I came here to question your master, but 
now ... I, who am at peace with all the world and with 
myself, why should I trouble my head with questions? I feel 
that the ship of my soul is beginning to slip its moorings; 
a wonderful sea waits to be crossed; yet you would draw me 
back to the noisy port of this world, just when I am about to 
start the great adventure! 

But the spell is broken. As if this infelicitous intrusion is 
a signal, figures rise from the floor and begin to move about 
the hall, voices float up to my hearing, and - wonder of wonders! 
- the dark brown eyes of the Maharishee flicker once or twice. 
Then the head turns, the face moves slowly, very slowly, and 
bends downward at an angle. A few more moments, and it 
has brought me into the ambit of its vision. For the first time 
the sage's mysterious gaze is directed upon me. It is plain 
that he has now awakened from his long trance. 

The intruder, thinking perhaps that my lack of response is 
a sign that I have not heard him, repeats his question aloud. 
But in those lustrous eyes which are gently staring at me, I read 
another question, albeit unspoken. 

"Can it be - is it possible - that you are still tormented 
with distracting doubts when you have now glimpsed the deep 
mental peace which you - and all men - may attain?" 

The peace overwhelms me. I turn to the guide and answer: 

"No. There is nothing I care to ask now. Another 
time " 

I feel now that some explanation of my visit is required of 
me, not by the Maharishee himself but by the little crowd 
which has begun to talk so animatedly. I know from the 


accounts of my guide that only a handful of these people are 
resident disciples, and that the others are visitors from the 
country around. Strangely enough, at this point my guide 
himself arises and makes the required introduction. He speaks 
energetically in Tamil, using a wealth of gesture while he 
explains matters to the assembled company. I fear that his 
explanation is mixing a little fable with his facts, for it draws 
cries of wonder. 


The midday meal is over. The sun unmercifully raises the 
afternoon temperature to a degree I have never before experi- 
enced. But then, we are now in a latitude not so far from the 
Equator. For once I am grateful that India is favoured with 
a climate which does not foster activity, because most of the 
people have disappeared into the shady groves to take a siesta. 
I can therefore approach the Maharishee in the way I prefer, 
without undue notice or fuss. 

I enter the large hall and sit down near him. He half- 
reclines upon some white cushions placed on the divan. An 
attendant pulls steadily at the cord which operates the punkah- 
fan. The soft burr of the rope and the gentle swish of the fan 
as it moves through the sultry air sound pleasantly in my ears. 

The Maharishee holds a folded manuscript book in his 
hands; he is writing something with extreme slowness. A 
few minutes after my entry he puts the book aside and calls 
a disciple. A few words pass between them in Tamil and the 
man tells me that his master wishes to reiterate his regrets at 
my inability to partake of their food. He explains that they 
live a simple life, and never having catered for Europeans before 
do not know what the latter eat. I thank the Maharishee, and 
say that I shall be glad to share their unspiced dishes with 
them; for the rest, I shall procure some food from the town- 
ship. I add that I regard the question of diet as being far less 
important than the quest which has brought me to his hermitage. 

The sage listens intently, his face calm, imperturbable and 

"It is a good object," he comments at length. 

This encourages me to enlarge upon the same theme. 

"Master, I have studied our Western philosophies and 
sciences, lived and worked among the people of our crowded 
cities, tasted their pleasures and allowed myself to be caught 


up into their ambitions. Yet I have also gone into solitary 
places and wandered there amid the loneliness of deep thought. 
I have questioned the sages of the West; now I have turned 
my face towards the East. I seek more light. " 

The Maharishee nods his head, as if to say, "Yes, I quite 

"I have heard many opinions, listened to many theories. 
Intellectual proofs of one belief or another lie piled up all 
around me. I am tired of them, sceptical of anything which 
cannot be proved by personal experience. Forgive me for 
saying so, but I am not religious. Is there anything beyond 
man's material existence. If so, how can I realize it for myself?" 

The three or four devotees who are gathered around us 
stare in surprise. Have I offended the subtle etiquette of the 
hermitage by speaking so brusquely and boldly to their master? 
I do not know; perhaps I do not care. The accumulated 
weight of many years' desire has unexpectedly escaped my 
control and passed beyond my lips. If the Maharishee is the 
right kind of man, surely he will understand and brush aside 
mere lapses from convention. 

He makes no verbal reply but appears to have dropped into 
some train of thought. Because there is nothing else to do and 
because my tongue has now been loosened, I address him for the 
third time: 

"The wise men of the West, our scientists, are greatly 
honoured for their cleverness. Yet they have confessed that 
they can throw but little light upon the hidden truth behind 
life. It is said that there are some in your land who can give 
what our Western sages fail to reveal. Is this so? Can you 
assist me to experience enlightenment? Or is the search 
itself a mere delusion? " 

I have now reached my conversational objective and decide 
to await the Maharishee's response. He continues to stare 
thoughtfully at me. Perhaps he is pondering over my questions. 
Ten minutes pass in silence. 

At last his lips open and he says gently: 

"You say I. '/want to know.' Tell me, who is that I?" 

What does he mean? He has now cut across the services 
of the interpreter and speaks direct to me in English. Bewilder- 
ment creeps across my brain. 

"I am afraid I do not understand your question," I reply 

"Is it not clear. Think again!" 

I puzzle over his words once more. An idea suddenly 


flashes into my head. I point a finger towards myself and 
mention my name. 

"And do you know him?" 

"All my life!" I smile back at him. 

"But that is only your body! Again I ask, ' Who are 

I cannot find a ready answer to this extraordinary query. 

The Maharishee continues: 

"Know first that I and then you shall know the truth." 

My mind hazes again. I am deeply puzzled. This bewilder- 
ment finds verbal expression. But the Maharishee has evidently 
reached the limit of his English, for he turns to the interpreter 
and the answer is slowly translated to me: 

"There is only one thing to be done. Look into your own 
self. Do this in the right way and you shall find the answer 
to all your problems." 

It is a strange rejoinder. But I ask him: 

"What must one do? What method can I pursue?" 

"Through deep reflection on the nature of one's self, and 
through constant meditation, the light can be found." 

"I have frequently given myself up to meditation upon the 
truth, but I see no signs of progress." 

"How do you know that no progress has been made? It is 
not easy to perceive one's progress in the spiritual realm." 

"Is the help of a master necessary?" 

"It might be." 

"Can a master help a man to look into his own self in the 
way you suggest? " 

"He can give the man all that he needs for this quest. Such 
a thing can be perceived through personal experience." 

"How long will it take to get some enlightenment with a 
master's help? " 

"It all depends on the maturity of the seeker's mind. The 
gunpowder catches fire in an instant, while much time is needed 
to set fire to the coal." 

I receive a queer feeling that the sage dislikes to discuss 
the subject of masters and their methods. Yet my mental 
pertinacity is strong enough to override this feeling, and I 
address a further question on the matter to him. He turns a 
stolid face toward the window, gazes out at the expanse of hilly 
landscape beyond, and vouchsafes no answer. I take the hint 
and drop the subject. 

"Will the Maharishee express an opinion about the future 
of the world, for we are living in critical times?" 


"Why should you trouble yourself about the future?" 
demands the sage. " You do not even properly know about the 
present! Take care of the present; the future will then take 
care of itself." 

Another rebuff! But I do not yield so easily on this occasion, 
for I come from a world where the tragedies of life press far 
more heavily on people than they do in this peaceful jungle 

"Will the world soon enter a new era of friendliness and 
mutual help, or will it go down into chaos and war? " I persist. 

The Maharishee does not seem at all pleased, but nevertheless 
he makes a reply. 

"There is One who governs the world, and it is His look- 
out to look after the world. He who has given life to the world, 
knows how to look after it also. He bears the burden of this 
world, not you." 

"Yet if one looks around with unprejudiced eyes, it is diffi- 
cult to see where this benevolent regard comes in," I object. 

The sage appears to be still less pleased. Yet his answer 

"As you are, so is the world. Without understanding your- 
self, what is the use of trying to understand the world? This 
is a question that seekers after truth need not consider. People 
waste their energies over all such questions. First, find out 
the truth behind yourself; then you will be in a better position 
to understand the truth behind the world, of which yourself is a 

There is an abrupt pause. An attendant approaches and 
lights another incense stick. The Maharishee watches the blue 
smoke curl its way upwards and then picks up his manuscript 
book. He unfolds its pages and begins to work on it again, thus 
dismissing me from the field of his attention. 

This renewed indifference of his plays like cold water upon 
my self-esteem. I sit around for another quarter of an hour, but 
I can see that he is in no mood to answer my questions. Feeling 
that our conversation is really at an end, I rise from the tiled 
floor, place my hands together in farewell, and leave him. 


I have sent someone to the township with orders to fetch a 
conveyance, for I wish to inspect the temple. I request him to 
find a horsed carriage, if there is one in the place, for a bullock 


cart is picturesque to look at, but hardly as rapid and comfort- 
able as one could wish. 

I find a two-wheeled pony carriage waiting for me as I enter 
the courtyard. It possesses no seat, but such an item no longer 
troubles me. The driver is a fierce-looking fellow with a soiled 
red turban on his head. His only other garment is a long piece 
of unbleached cloth made into a waistband, with one end 
passing between his thighs and then tucking into his waist. 

A long, dusty ride and then at last the entrance to the great 
temple, with its rising storeys of carved reliefs, greets us. I 
leave the carriage and begin a cursory exploration. 

"I cannot say how old is the temple of Arunachala," remarks 
my companion in response to a question, "but as you can see 
its age must extend back hundreds of years." 

Around the gates and in the approaches to the temple are a 
few little shops and gaudy booths, set up under overhanging 
palms. Beside them sit humbly dressed vendors of holy 
pictures and sellers of little brass images of Shiva and other 
gods. I am struck by the preponderance of representations of 
the former deity, for in other places Krishna and Rama seem 
to hold first place. My guide offers an explanation. 

"According to our sacred legends, the god Shiva once 
appeared as a flame of fire on the top of the sacred red mountain. 
Therefore the priests of the temple light the large beacon once a 
year in memory of this event, which must have happened 
thousands of years ago. I suppose the temple was built to 
celebrate it, as Shiva still overshadows the mountain." 1 

A few pilgrims are idly examining the stalls, where one can 
buy, not only these little brass deities, but also gaudy chromo- 
lithographs picturing some event from the sacred stories, books 
of a religious character, blotchily printed in Tamil and Telegu 
languages, and coloured paints wherewith to mark on one's 
forehead the fitting caste or sect symbol. 

A leprous beggar comes hesitatingly towards me. The flesh 
of his limbs is crumbling away. He is apparently not certain 
whether I shall have him driven off, poor fellow, or whether he 
will be able to touch my pity. His face is rigid with his terrible 
disease. I feel ashamed as I place some alms on the ground, 
but I fear to touch him. 

The gateway, which is shaped into a pyramid of carven 
figures, next engages my attention. This great towered portico 

1 We Westerners may regard these deities as fantastic personifi- 
cations of religious ideas, but the Hindus themselves do not doubt 
they really exist as real beings. 


looks like some pyramid out of Egypt with its pointed top 
chopped off. Together with its three fellows, it dominates the 
countryside. One sees them miles away long before one 
approaches them. 

The face of the pagoda is lined with profuse carvings and 
quaint little statues. The subjects have been drawn from 
sacred myth and legend. They represent a queer jumble. One 
perceives the solitary forms of Hindu divinities entranced into 
devout meditation, or observes their intertwined shapes engaged 
in amorous embraces, and one wonders. It reminds one that 
there is something in Hinduism for all tastes, such is the all- 
inclusive nature of this creed. 

I enter the precincts of the temple, to find myself in part of 
an enormous quadrangle. The vast structure encloses a laby- 
rinth of colonnades, cloisters, galleries, shrines, rooms, corri- 
dors, covered and uncovered spaces. Here is no stone building 
whose columned beauty stays one's emotions in a few minutes 
of silent wonder, as do those courts of the deities near Athens, 
but rather a gloomy sanctuary of dark mysteries. The vast 
recesses awe me with their chill air of aloofness. The place is a 
maze, but my companion walks with confident feet. Outside, 
the pagodas have looked attractive with their reddish stone 
colouring, but inside the stonework is ashen grey. 

We pass through a long cloister with solid walls and flat, 
quaintly carved pillars supporting the roofs. We move into 
dim corridors and dark chambers and eventually arrive at a vast 
portico which stands in the outer court of this ancient fane. 

"The Hall of a Thousand Pillars!" announces my guide as 
I gaze at the time-greyed structure. A serried row of flat, 
carved, gigantic stone columns stretches before me. The place 
is lonely and deserted; its monstrous pillars loom mysteriously 
out of the semi-gloom. I approach them more closely to study 
the old carvings which line many of their faces. Each pillar is 
composed of a single block of stone, and even the roof which it 
supports is composed of large pieces of flat stone. Once again 
I see gods and goddesses disporting themselves with the help 
of the sculptor's art; once again the carved faces of animals 
familiar and unfamiliar stare at me. 

We wander on across the flagstones of these pillared galleries, 
pass through dark passages lit here and there by small bowl- 
lamps, whose wicks are sunk in castor oil, and thus arrive near a 
central enclosure. It is pleasant to emerge once again in the 
bright sunshine as we cross over to the enclosure. One can 
now observe the five shorter pagodas which dot the interior of 


the temple. They are formed precisely like the pyramidal 
towers which mark the entrance gateways in the high-walled 
quadrangle. I examine the one which stands near us and arrive 
at the conclusion that it is built of brick, and that its decorated 
surface is not really stone-carved, but modelled out of baked 
clay or some durable plaster. Some of the figures have evidently 
been picked out with paint, but the colours have now faded. 

We enter the enclosure and after wandering through some 
more long, dark passages in this stupendous temple, my guide 
warns me that we are approaching the central shrine, where 
European feet may not walk. But though the holy of holies is 
forbidden to the infidel, yet the latter is allowed to catch a 
glimpse from a dark corridor which leads to the threshold. As 
if to confirm his warning I hear the beating of drums, the 
banging of gongs and the droning incantations of priests 
mingling into a monotonous rhythm that sounds rather eerie in 
the darkness of the old sanctuary. 

I take my glimpse, expectantly. Out of the gloom there 
rises a golden flame set before an idol, two or three dim altar 
lights, and the sight of a few worshippers engaged in some 
ritual. I cannot distinguish the forms of the priestly musicians, 
but now I hear the conch horn and the cymbal add their harsh, 
weird notes to the music. 

My companion whispers that it would be better for me not to 
stay any longer, as my presence will be decidedly unwelcome 
to the priests. Thereupon we withdraw into the somnolent 
sanctity of the outer parts of the temple. My exploration is at 
an end. 

When we reach the gateway once more, I have to step aside 
because an elderly Brahmin sits on the ground in the middle of 
the path with a little brass water-jug beside him. He paints a 
gaudy caste mark on his forehead, holding a broken bit of 
mirror in his left hand. The red-and-white trident which 
presently appears upon his brow - sign of an orthodox Hindu 
of the South - gives him, in Western eyes, the grotesque 
appearance of a clown. A shrivelled old man, who sits in a 
booth by the temple gates and sells little images of holy Shiva, 
raises his eyes to meet mine and I pause to buy something at his 
unuttered request. 

Somewhere in the far end of the township I espy the gleaming 
whiteness of a marble minaret, so I leave the temple and drive 
to the local mosque. Something inside me always thrills to the 
graceful arches of a mosque and to the delicate beauty of 
cupolas. Once again I remove my shoes and enter the charming 


white building. How well it has been planned, for its vaulted 
height inevitably elevates one's mood! There are a few wor- 
shippers present; they sit, kneel or prostrate themselves upon 
their small, colourful prayer rugs. There are no mysterious 
shrines here, no gaudy images, for the Prophet has written that 
nothing shall come between a man and God - not even a priest! 
All worshippers are equal before the face of Allah. There is 
neither priest nor pundit, no hierarchy of superior beings to 
interpose themselves in a man's thoughts when he turns 
towards Mecca. 

As we return through the main street I note the money- 
changers' booths, the sweetmeat stalls, the cloth merchant's 
shop and the sellers of grain and rice - all existing for the benefit 
of pilgrims to the ancient sanctuary which has called the place 
into being. 

I am now eager to get back to the Maharishee, and the driver 
urges his pony to cover the distance which lies before us at a 
rapid pace. I turn my head and take a final glimpse of the 
temple of Arunachala. The nine sculptured towers rise like 
pylons into the air. They speak to me of the patient toil in the 
name of God which has gone into the making of the old temple, 
for it has undoubtedly taken more than a man's lifetime to 
construct. And again that queer reminiscence of Egypt 
penetrates my mind. Even the domestic architecture of the 
streets possesses an Egyptian character in the low houses and 
thick walls. 

Shall a day ever come when these temples will be abandoned 
and left, silent and deserted, to crumble slowly into the red and 
grey dust whence they have emerged? Or will man find new 
gods and build new fanes wherein to worship them? 

While our pony gallops along the road towards the hermitage 
which lies on one of the slopes of yonder rock-strewn hill, I 
realize with a catch in my breath that Nature is unrolling an 
entire pageant of beauty before our eyes. How often have I 
waited for this hour in the East, when the sun, with much 
splendour, goes to rest upon its bed of night! An Oriental 
sunset holds the heart with its lovely play of vivid colours. 
And yet the whole event is over so quickly, an affair of less than 
half an hour. 

Those lingering autumnal evenings of Europe are almost 
unknown here. Out in the west a great flaming ball of fire 
begins its visible descent into the jungle. It assumes the most 
striking orange hue as a prelude to its rapid disappearance from 
the vault of heaven. The sky around it takes on all the colours 


of the spectrum, providing our eyes with an artistic feast which 
no painter could ever provide. The fields and groves around us 
have entered into an entranced stillness. No more can the 
chirruping of little birds be heard. The chatter of wild monkeys 
has come to an end. The giant circle of red fire is quickly 
fading into some other dimension. Evening's curtain falls 
thicker yet and soon the whole panorama of thrusting tongues 
of flame and outspread colours sinks away into darkness. 

The calmness sinks into my thoughts, the loveliness of it all 
touches my heart. How can one forget these benign minutes 
which the fates have portioned us, when they make us play 
with the thought that, under the cruel face of life, a benevolent 
and beautiful Power may yet be hiding? These minutes put 
our commonplace hours to shame. Out of the dark void they 
come like meteors, to light a transient trail of hope and then to 
pass away from our ken. 


Fireflies whirl about the hermitage garden, drawing strange 
patterns of light on the background of darkness, as we drive 
into the palm-fringed courtyard. And when I enter the long 
hall and drop to a seat on the floor, the sublime silence appears 
to have reached this place and pervaded the air. 

The assembled company squats in rows around the hall, 
but among them there is no noise and no talk. Upon the corner 
couch sits the Maharishee, his feet folded beneath him, his 
hands resting unconcernedly upon his knees. His figure 
strikes me anew as being simple, modest; yet withal it is 
dignified and impressive. His head is nobly poised, like the 
head of some Homeric sage. His eyes gaze immovably towards 
the far end of the hall. That strange steadiness of sight is as 
puzzling as ever. Has he been merely watching through the 
window the last ray of light fade out of the sky, or is he so 
wrapt in some dreamlike abstraction as to see naught of this 
material world at all? 

The usual cloud of incense floats among the wooden rafters 
of the roof. I settle down and try to fix my eyes on the 
Maharishee, but after a while feel a delicate urge to close them. 
It is not long before I fall into a half sleep, lulled by the in- 
tangible peace which, in the sage's proximity, begins to pene- 
trate me more deeply. Ultimately there comes a gap in my 
consciousness and then I experience a vivid dream. 


It seems that I become a little boy of five. I stand on a rough 
path which winds up and around the sacred hill of Arunachala, 
and hold the Maharishee's hand; but now he is a great 
towering figure at my side, for he seems to have grown to 
giant's size. He leads me away from the hermitage and, 
despite the impenetrable darkness of the night, guides me 
along the path which we both slowly walk together. After a 
while the stars and the moon conspire to bestow a faint light 
upon our surroundings. I notice that the Maharishee carefully 
guides me around fissures in the rocky soil and between 
monstrous boulders that are shakily perched. The hill is 
steep and our ascent is slow. Hidden in narrow clefts between 
the rocks and boulders or sheltered by clusters of low bushes, 
tiny hermitages and inhabited caves come into view. As we 
pass by, the inhabitants emerge to greet us and, although 
their forms take on a ghostly appearance in the starlight, 
I recognize that they are Yogis of varying kinds. We never 
stop for them, but continue to walk until the top of the peak 
is reached. We halt at last, my heart throbbing with a strange 
anticipation of some momentous event about to befall me. 

The Maharishee turns and looks down into my face; I, in 
turn, gaze expectantly up at him. I become aware of a mysteri- 
ous change taking place with great rapidity in my heart and 
mind. The old motives which have lured me on begin to 
desert me. The urgent desires which have sent my feet 
hither and thither vanish with incredible swiftness. The 
dislikes, misunderstandings, coldnesses and selfishness which 
have marked my dealings with many of my fellows collapse 
into the abyss of nothingness. An untellable peace falls upon 
me and I know now that there is nothing further that I shall 
ask from life. 

Suddenly the Maharishee bids me turn my gaze away to the 
bottom of the hill. I obediently do so and to my astonishment 
discover that the Western hemisphere of our globe lies stretched 
out far below. It is crowded with millions of people; I can 
vaguely discern them as masses of forms, but the night's 
darkness still enshrouds them. 

The sage's voice comes to my ears, his words slowly uttered: 

"When you go back there, you shall have this peace which 
you now feel. But its price will be that you shall henceforth 
cast aside the idea that you are this body or this brain. 
When this peace will flow into you, then you shall have to 
forget your own self, for you will have turned your life over to 
THAT! " 


And the Maharishee places one end of a thread of silver 
light in my hand. 

I awaken from that extraordinarily vivid dream with the 
sense of its penetrating sublimity yet upon me. Immediately 
the Maharishee's eyes meet mine. His face is now turned in 
my direction, and he is looking fixedly into my eyes. 

What lies behind that dream? For the desires and bitter- 
nesses of personal life fade for a while into oblivion. That 
condition of lofty indifference to self and profound pity for 
my fellows which I have dreamt into being, does not take its 
departure even though I am now awake. 'Tis a strange 

But if the dream has any verity in it, then the thing will 
not last; it is not yet for me. 

How long have I been sunk in dream? For everyone in the 
hall now begins to rise and to prepare for sleep. I must 
perforce follow the example. 

It is too stuffy to sleep in that long, sparsely ventilated hall, 
so I choose the courtyard. A tall, grey-bearded disciple 
brings me a lantern and advises me to keep it burning through- 
out the night. There is a possibility of unwelcome visitors, 
such as snakes and even cheetahs, but they are likely to keep 
clear of a light. 

The earth is baked hard and I possess no mattress, with the 
result that I do not fall asleep for some hours. But no matter 
- I have enough to think over, for I feel that in the Maharishee 
I have met the most mysterious personality whom life has yet 
brought within the orbit of my experience. 

The sage seems to carry something of great moment to 
me, yet I cannot easily determine its precise nature. It is in- 
tangible, imponderable, perhaps spiritual. Each time I think 
of him to-night, each time I remember that vivid dream, a 
peculiar sensation pierces me and causes my heart to throb 
with vague, but lofty expectations. 


During the ensuing days I endeavour to get into closer 
contact with the Maharishee, but fail. There are three reasons 
for this failure. The first arises naturally out of his own 
reserved nature, his obvious dislike of argument and discussion, 
his stolid indifference to one's beliefs and opinions. It becomes 
perfectly obvious that the sage has no wish to convert anyone 


to his own ideas, whatever they may be, and no desire to add 
a single person to his following. 

The second cause is certainly a strange one, but nevertheless 
it exists. Since the evening of that peculiar dream, I feel a 
great awe whenever I enter his presence. The questions 
which would otherwise have come chatteringly from my lips 
are hushed, because it seems almost sacrilege to regard him as 
a person with whom one can talk and argue on an equal plane, 
so far as common humanity is concerned. 

The third cause of my failure is simple enough. Almost 
always there are several other persons present in the hall, 
and I feel disinclined to bring out my private thoughts in their 
presence. After all, I am a stranger to them and a foreigner 
in this district. That I voice a different language to some of 
them is a fact of little import, but that I possess a cynical, 
sceptical outlook unstirred by religious emotion is a fact of 
much import when I attempt to give utterance to that outlook. 
I have no desire to hurt their pious susceptibilities, but I have 
also no desire to discuss matters from an angle which makes 
little appeal to me. So, to some extent, this thing makes me 

It is not easy to find a smooth way across all three barriers; 
several times I am on the point of putting a question to the 
Maharishee, but one of the three factors intervenes to cause 
my failure. 

My proposed week-end quickly passes and I extend it to a 
week. The first conversation which I have had with the Mahar- 
ishee worthy of the name is likewise the last. Beyond one or 
two quite perfunctory and conventional scraps of talk, I find 
myself unable to get to grips with the man. 

The week passes and I extend it to a fortnight. Each day I 
sense the beautiful peace of the sage's mental atmosphere, 
the serenity which pervades the very air around him. 

The last day of my visit arrives and yet I am no closer to 
him. My stay has been a tantalizing mixture of sublime moods 
and disappointing failures to effect any worth-while personal 
contact with the Maharishee. I look around the hall and feel a 
slight despondency. Most of these men speak a different 
language, both outwardly and inwardly; how can I hope to 
come closer to them? I look at the sage himself. He sits 
there on Olympian heights and watches the panorama of life 
as one apart. There is a mysterious property in this man 
which differentiates him from all others I have met. 
I feel, somehow, that he does not belong to us, the human 


race, so much as he belongs to Nature, to the solitary peak 
which rises abruptly behind the hermitage, to the rough tract 
of jungle which stretches away into distant forests, and to the 
impenetrable sky which fills all space. 

Something of the stony, motionless quality of lonely Arun- 
achala seems to have entered into the Maharishee. I have 
learnt that he has lived on the hill for thirty years and refuses 
to leave it, even for a single short journey. Such a close 
association must inevitably have its effects on a man's character. 
I know that he loves this hill, for someone has translated a 
few lines of a charming but pathetic poem which the sage has 
written to express this love. Just as this isolated hill rises out 
of the jungle's edge and rears its squat head to the sky, so does 
this strange man raise his own head in solitary grandeur, nay, 
in uniqueness, out of the jungle of common humanity. Just 
as Arunachala, Hill of the Sacred Beacon, stands aloof, apart 
from the irregular chain of hills which girdles the entire 
landscape, so does the Maharishee remain mysteriously aloof 
even when surrounded by his own devotees, men who have 
loved him and lived near him for years. The impersonal, 
impenetrable quality of all Nature - so peculiarly exemplified 
in this sacred mountain - has somehow entered into him. It 
has segregated him from his weaker fellows, perhaps for ever. 
Sometimes I catch myself wishing that he would be a little 
more human, a little more susceptible to what seems so normal 
to us, but so like feeble failings when exhibited in his impersonal 
presence. And yet, if he has really attained to some sublime 
realization beyond the common, how can one expect him to do 
so without passing beyond man, without leaving his laggard 
race behind for ever? Why is it that under his strange glance 
I invariably experience a peculiar expectancy, as though some 
stupendous revelation will soon be made to me? 

Yet beyond the moods of palpable serenity and the dream 
which stars itself in the sky of memory, no verbal or other 
revelation has been communicated to me. I feel somewhat 
desperate at the pressure of time. Almost a fortnight gone 
and only a single talk that means anything ! Even the abrupt- 
ness in the sage's voice has helped, metaphorically, to keep 
me off. This unwonted reception is also unexpected, for I 
have not forgotten the glowing inducements to come here 
with which the yellow-robed holy man plied me. The 
tantalizing thing is that I want the sage, above all other men, 
to loosen his tongue for me, because a single thought has 
somehow aken possession of my mind. I do not obtain it by 


any process of ratiocination; it comes unbidden, entirely of 
its own accord. 

"This man has freed himself from all problems, and no woe 
can touch him." 

Such is the purport of this dominating thought. 

I resolve to make a fresh attempt to force my questions into 
voice and to engage the Maharishee in answer to them. I go 
out to one of his old disciples, who is doing some work in the 
adjoining cottage and who has been exceedingly kind to me, 
and tell him earnestly of my wish to have a final chat with his 
master. I confess that I feel too shy to tackle the sage myself. 
The disciple smiles compassionately. He leaves me and soon 
returns with the news that his master will be very pleased to 
grant the interview. 

I hasten back to the hall and sit down conveniently near the 
divan. The Maharishee turns his face immediately, his 
mouth relaxing into a pleasant greeting. Straightway, I feel 
at ease and begin to question him. 

"The Yogis say that one must renounce this world and go 
off into secluded jungles or mountains, if one wishes to find 
truth. Such things can hardly be done in the West; our 
lives are so different. Do you agree with the Yogis?" 

The Maharishee turns to a Brahmin disciple of courtly 
countenance. The latter translates his answer to me. 

"The life of action need not be renounced. If you will 
meditate for an hour or two every day, you can then carry on 
with your duties. If you meditate in the right manner, then 
the current of mind induced will continue to flow even in the 
midst of your work. It is as though there were two ways of 
expressing the same idea; the same line which you take in 
meditation will be expressed in your activities." 

"What will be the result of doing that?" 

"As you go on you will find that your attitude towards 
people, events and objects will gradually change. Your 
actions will tend to follow your meditations of their own 

"Then you do not agree with the Yogis?" I try to pin 
him down. 

But the Maharishee eludes a direct answer. 

"A man should surrender the personal selfishness which 
binds him to this world. Giving up the false self is the true 

"How is it possible to become selfless while leading a life of 
worldly activity?" 


'There is no conflict between work and wisdom." 

"Do you mean that one can continue all the old activities 
in one's profession, for instance, and at the same time get 

"Why not? But in that case one will not think that it is 
the old personality which is doing the work, because one's 
consciousness will gradually become transferred until it is 
centred in That which is beyond the little self." 

"If a person is engaged in work, there will be little time left 
for him to meditate." 

The Maharishee seems quite unperturbed at my poser. 

"Setting apart time for meditation is only for the merest 
spiritual novices," he replies. " A man who is advancing will 
begin to enjoy the deeper beatitude, whether he is at work or 
not. While his hands are in society, he keeps his head cool in 

"Then you do not teach the way of Yoga?" 

"The Yogi tries to drive his mind to the goal, as a cowherd 
drives a bull with a stick, but on this path the seeker coaxes 
the bull by holding out a handful of grass!" 

"How is that done?" 

"You have to ask yourself the question, Who am I? This 
investigation will lead in the end to the discovery of something 
within you which is behind the mind. Solve that great 
problem, and you will solve all other problems thereby." 

There is a pause as I try to digest his answer. From the 
square-framed and barred hole in the wall which does duty as 
a window, as it does in so many Indian buildings, I obtain a 
fine view of the lower slopes of the sacred hill. Its strange 
outline is bathed in the early morning sunlight. 

The Maharishee addresses me again: 

"Will it be clearer if it is put in this way? All human 
beings are ever wanting happiness, untainted with sorrow. 
They want to grasp a happiness which will not come to an end. 
The instinct is a true one. But have you ever been struck by 
the fact that they love their own selves most?" 


"Now relate that to the fact that they are ever desirous of 
attaining happiness through one means or another, through 
drink or through religion, and you are provided with a clue 
to the real nature of man." 

" I fail to see ." 

The tone of his voice becomes higher. 

"Man's real nature is happiness. Happiness is inborn in 


the true self. His search for happiness is an unconscious 
search for his true self. The true self is imperishable; there- 
fore, when a man finds it, he finds a happiness which does not 
come to an end." 

"But the world is so unhappy? " 

"Yes, but that is because the world is ignorant of its true 
self. All men, without exception, are consciously or 
unconsciously seeking for it." 

"Even the wicked, the brutal and the criminal? " I ask. 

"Even they sin because they are trying to find the selfs 
happiness in every sin which they commit. This striving is 
instinctive in man, but they do not know that they are really 
seeking their true selves, and so they try these wicked ways 
first as a means to happiness. Of course, they are wrong ways, 
for a man's acts are reflected back to him." 

"So we shall feel lasting happiness when we know this true 

The other nods his head. 

A slanting ray of sunshine falls through the unglazed 
window upon the Maharishee's face. There is serenity in that 
unruffled brow, there is contentment around that firm mouth, 
there is a shrine-like peace in those lustrous eyes. His unlined 
countenance does not belie his revelatory words. 

What does the Maharishee mean by these apparently simple 
sentences? The interpreter has conveyed their outward 
meaning to me in English, yes, but there is a deeper purport 
which he cannot convey. I know that I must discover that for 
myself. The sage seems to speak, not as a philosopher, not as 
a pundit trying to explain his own doctrine, but rather out of 
the depth of his own heart. Are these words the marks of his 
own fortunate experience? 

"What exactly is this self of which you speak? If what 
you say is true, then there must be another self in man." 

His lips curve in a smile for a moment. 

"Can a man be possessed of two identities, two selves?" 
he makes answer. "To understand this matter it is first 
necessary for a man to analyse himself. Because it has long 
been his habit to think as others think, he has never faced his 
' I ' in the true manner. He has not a correct picture of him- 
self; he has too long identified himself with the body and the 
brain. Therefore, I tell you to pursue this enquiry, Who am 
I ? " 

He pauses to let these words soak into me. I listen eagerly 
to his next sentences. 


"You ask me to describe this true self to you. What can 
be said? It is That out of which the sense of the personal 
' I ' arises, and into which it shall have to disappear." 

" Disappear? " I echo back. " How can one lose the feeling 
of one's personality? " 

"The first and foremost of all thoughts, the primeval 
thought in the mind of every man, is the thought ' I . ' It is 
only after the birth of this thought that any other thoughts 
can arise at all. It is only after the first personal pronoun 
' I ' has arisen in the mind, that the second personal pronoun 
'You ' can make its appearance. If you could mentally follow 
the ' I' thread until it leads you back to its source, you would 
discover that, just as it is the first thought to appear, so is it 
the last to disappear. This is a matter which can be 
experienced. " 

"You mean that it is perfectly possible to conduct such a 
mental investigation into oneself?" 

"Assuredly! It is possible to go inwards until the last 
thought ' I ' gradually vanishes." 

"What is left?" I query. "Will a man then become quite 
unconscious, or will he become an idiot?" 

"Not so! On the contrary, he will attain that consciousness 
which is immortal, and he will become truly wise, when he 
has awakened to his true self, which is the real nature of 

"But surely the sense of ' I' must also pertain to that?" 
I persist. 

"The sense of ' I' pertains to the person, the body and 
brain," replies the Maharishee calmly. " When a man knows 
his true self for the first time, something else arises from the 
depths of his being and takes possession of him. That some- 
thing is behind the mind; it is infinite, divine, eternal. Some 
people call it the kingdom of heaven, others call it the soul, 
still others name it Nirvana, and we Hindus call it Liberation; 
you may give it what name you wish. When this happens a 
man has not really lost himself; rather, he has found 

As the last word falls from the interpreter's lips, there 
flashes across my mind those memorable words which were 
uttered by a wandering Teacher in Galilee, words which have 
puzzled so many good persons: Whosoever shall seek to save 
his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall 
preserve it. 

How strangely similar are the two sentences! Yet the 


Indian sage has arrived at the thought in his own non-Christian 
way, through a psychological path which seems exceedingly 
difficult and appears unfamiliar. 

The Maharishee speaks again, his words breaking into my 

"Unless and until a man embarks upon this quest of the 
true self, doubt and uncertainty will follow his footsteps 
throughout life. The greatest kings and statesmen try to rule 
others, when in their heart of hearts they know that they 
cannot rule themselves. Yet the greatest power is at the 
command of the man who has penetrated to his inmost depth. 
There are men of giant intellects who spend their lives gathering 
knowledge about many things. Ask these men if they have 
solved the mystery of man, if they have conquered themselves, 
and they will hang their heads in shame. What is the use of 
knowing about everything else when you do not yet know 
who you are? Men avoid this enquiry into the true self, but 
what else is there so worthy to be undertaken?" 

"That is such a difficult, a superhuman task," I comment. 

The sage gives an almost imperceptible shrug of his 

"The question of its possibility is a matter of one's own 
experience. The difficulty is less real than you think." 

"For us, who are active, practical Westerners, such intro- 
spections ?" I begin doubtfully and leave my sentence 

trailing in mid-air. 

The Maharishee bends down to light a fresh joss stick, which 
will replace one whose red spark is dying out. 

"The realization of truth is the same for both Indians and 
Europeans. Admittedly the way to it may be harder for those 
who are engrossed in worldly life, but even then one can 
and must conquer. The current induced during meditation 
can be kept up by habit, by practising to do so. Then one 
can perform his work and activities in that very current itself; 
there will be no break. Thus, too, there will be no difference 
between meditation and external activities. If you meditate 
on this question, Who am I? - if you begin to perceive that 
neither the body nor the brain nor the desires are really you, 
then the very attitude of enquiry will eventually draw the 
answer to you out of the depths of your own being; it will 
come to you of its own accord as a deep realization." 

Again I ponder his words. 

"Know the real self," he continues, "and then the truth will 
shine forth within your heart like sunshine. The mind will 


become untroubled and real happiness will flood it, for happi- 
ness and the true self are identical. You will have no more 
doubts once you attain this self-awareness." 

He turns his head and fixes his gaze at the far end of the hall. 
I know then that he has reached his conversational limit. 
Thus ends our last talk and I congratulate myself that I 
have drawn him out of the shell of taciturnity before my 


I leave him and wander away to a quiet spot in the jungle, 
where I spend most of the day among my notes and books. 
When dusk falls I return to the hall, for within an hour or two 
a pony-carriage or bullock-cart will arrive to bear me away from 
the hermitage. 

Burning incense makes the air odorous. The Maharishee 
has been half-reclining under the waving punkah as I enter 
but he soon sits up and assumes his favourite attitude. He 
sits with legs crossed, the right foot placed on the left thigh 
and the left foot merely folded beneath the right thigh. I 
•remember being shown a similar position by Brama, the Yogi 
who lives near Madras, who called it "The Comfortable 
Posture." It is really a half-Buddha posture and quite easy 
to do. The Maharishee, as is his wont, holds his chin with 
his right hand and rests the elbow on a knee; next he gazes 
attentively at me but remains quite silent. On the floor beside 
him I notice his gourd-shell water-jug and his bamboo staff. 
They are his sole earthly possessions, apart from the strip of 
loin-cloth. What a mute commentary on our Western spirit 
of acquisitiveness! 

His eyes, always shining, steadily become more glazed and 
fixed; his body sets into a rigid pose; his head trembles 
slightly and then comes to rest. A few more minutes and I can 
plainly see that he has re-entered the trance-like condition in 
which he was when I first met him. How strange that our 
parting shall repeat our meeting! Someone brings his face 
close to mine and whispers in my ear, "The Maharishee has 
gone into holy trance. It is useless now to talk." 

A hush falls upon the little company. The minutes slowly 
pass but the silence only deepens. I am not religious but I can 
no more resist the feeling of increasing awe which begins to 
grip my mind than a bee can resist a flower in all its luscious 


bloom. The hall is becoming pervaded with a subtle, in- 
tangible and indefinable power which affects me deeply. I feel, 
without doubt and without hesitation, that the centre of this 
mysterious power is no other than the Maharishee himself. 

His eyes shine with astonishing brilliance. Strange sensations 
begin to arise in me. Those lustrous orbs seem to be peering 
into the inmost recesses of my soul. In a peculiar way, I feel 
aware of everything he can see in my heart. His mysterious 
glance penetrates my thoughts, my emotions and my desires; 
I am helpless before it. At first this disconcerting gaze 
troubles me; I become vaguely uneasy. I feel that he has 
perceived pages that belong to a past which I have forgotten. 
He knows it all, I am certain. I am powerless to escape; 
somehow, I do not want to, either. Some curious intimation of 
future benefit forces me to endure that pitiless gaze. 

And so he continues to catch the feeble quality of my soul 
for a while, to perceive my motley past, to sense the mixed 
emotions which have drawn me this way and that. But I feel 
that he understands also what mind-devastating quest has 
impelled me to leave the common way and seek out such men 
as he. 

There comes a perceptible change in the telepathic current 
which plays between us, the while my eyes blink frequently but 
his remain without the least tremor. I become aware that he is 
definitely linking my own mind with his, that he is provoking my 
heart into that state of starry calm which he seems perpetually 
to enjoy. In this extraordinary peace, I find a sense of exalta- 
tion and lightness. Time seems to stand still. My heart is 
released from its burden of care. Never again, I feel, shall 
the bitterness of anger and the melancholy of unsatisfied desire 
afflict me. I realize deeply that the profound instinct which is 
innate in the race, which bids man look up, which encourages 
him to hope on, and which sustains him when life has darkened, 
is a true instinct, for the essence of being is good. In this 
beautiful, entranced silence, when the clock stands still and the 
sorrows and errors of the past seem like trivialities, my mind 
is being submerged in that of the Maharishee and wisdom is now 
at its perihelion. What is this man's gaze but a thaumaturgic 
wand, which evokes a hidden world of unexpected splendour 
before my profane eyes? 

I have sometimes asked myself why these disciples have been 
staying around the sage for years, with few conversations, fewer 
comforts and no external activities to attract them. Now I begin 
to understand - not by thought but by lightning-like illumination 


- that through all those years they have been receiving a deep 
and silent reward. 

Hitherto, everyone in the hall has been hushed to a deathlike 
stillness. At length, someone quietly rises and passes out. He 
is followed by another, and then another, until all have gone. 

I am alone with the Maharishee! Never before has this 
happened. His eyes begin to change; they narrow down to 
pin-points. The effect is curiously like the "stopping-down" 
in the focus of a camera lens. There comes a tremendous 
increase in the intense gleam which shines between the lids, 
now almost closed. Suddenly, my body seems to disappear, 
and we are both out in space! 

It is a crucial moment. I hesitate - and decide to break this 
enchanter's spell. Decision brings power and once again I am 
back in the flesh, back in the hall. 

No word passes from him to me. I collect my faculties, 
look at the clock, and rise quietly. The hour of departure has 

I bow my head in farewell. The sage silently acknowledges 
the gesture. I utter a few words of thanks. Again, he silently 
nods his head. 

I linger reluctantly at the threshold. Outside, I hear the 
tinkle of a bell. The bullock-cart has arrived. Once more I 
raise my hands, palms touching. 

And so we part. 



SPACE and time, those defiant enemies of man, hurry 
this pen again. My feet must once more take giant 
strides on this eastward trek, while my pen sets down 
a few salient things that are worth a written memorial. 

It is true that the faqueer of a few tricks, the magician of the 
streets, holds for me, as for everyone else, a natural interest. 
Yet mine is only a fleeting interest, for he can throw little light 
on the great mysteries of human life which are alone worthy 
of a man's deepest thought. Still, his presence is a diversion 
and I turn aside on occasions to enquire after him. 

I want to picture a few of the types who come into the orbit 
of my wandering, to point my pen at widely differing men. 
One of them looms up in memory, though he is but an insig- 
nificant trickster whom I meet at Rajahmundry, a quiet town 
in the north-eastern part of Madras Presidency. 

An aimless stroll takes me through a place where my shoes 
sink into the soft sand which covers the ground. Eventually 
I arrive at a narrow street which leads to a bazaar. As I walk 
along in the sultry air, old men squat in open doorways, children 
play amid the dirt, and a stark-naked youngster dives out 
of a house - only to disappear again on catching sight of the 

In the long, bustling bazaar itself, elderly merchants sit in 
their little shops and stroke their beards expectantly while I 
pass; the sellers of food and grain squat beside their open 
booths, while an army of flies is busy attacking their wares. 
In course of time I come to the somewhat gaudy structure of 
a temple, where a little group of men and women stirs out of the 
dust at my approach. The leprous, the crippled and the desti- 
tute make their rendezvous near the temples and the stations 
of most Indian cities, that they may gather alms of the pious 
and the strangers. Worshippers walk noiselessly into the 
building, their bare feet treading the dust on the stones. Shall 



I, too, wander into the building and watch the ministrations 
of the priests? I debate the question and decide in the 

I proceed on my protracted ramble until I observe a youth 
striding along before me. He is dressed in a European shirt 
worn, as is the custom, back to front, and a flowing waistband, 
while his right arm clasps a bundle of cloth-bound books. 
When I overtake him, he instinctively turns his head; our 
eyes meet - and our acquaintance begins! 

The exigencies of my profession have taught me to serve the 
conventions whenever one can, but to dispense with them when- 
ever they stand between one and an objective. I like travel, 
but usually in an unconventional way; hence my Indian 
wanderings will hardly be a model for the Cook's tourist or 
unbohemian traveller. 

The youth proves to be a student at a large local college, and 
he possesses an air of general intelligence which is quite 
attractive. Moreover, he seems to have a care for the ancient 
culture of his land, and when I tell him of my interest in the 
subject, his delight knows no bounds. I discover, too, that he 
he has not yet succumbed to the hysteria for politics which has 
attacked most of the young students in the towns, though 
India is now in the throes of the long turmoil which Gandhi has 
aroused into being in his effort to disturb the relations between 
white rulers and brown ruled. 

Half an hour later he is guiding me to an open space where 
a little crowd has gathered in expectant mood. There is a 
man in the centre who is bawling something at the top of his 
voice. The youth informs me that this loud declaration con- 
sists mainly of a list of wonderful Yogic powers which the man 
claims to possess. 

The self-proclaimed Yogi is powerfully built; he has an 
elongated head, thick-set shoulders, and an abdomen which has 
begun to bulge through the piece of cotton cloth wrapped about 
his loins which constitutes part of his dress. For the rest he 
wears a long loose white robe. I feel that there is a little too 
much bravado about the man, but when he offers to perform 
the mango-tree feat, if sufficient financial inducement is forth- 
coming, I join with a few others in throwing some coins at his 

He begins by placing a capacious earthenware pot in front 
of him and then proceeds to squat on the ground. The pot is 
filled with reddish brown earth. He shows us a little mango 
stone and plants it in the earth. After that he produces a large 


cloth out of his travelling bag, and spreads it over the pot, his 
folded knees and his thighs. 

For several minutes we are treated to some mystic incanta- 
tions, which the Yogi chants in a monotonous voice, and then he 
withdraws the cloth. The first bud of a mango plant peeps 
its head above the earth! 

Once again he covers both pot and legs, picks up a reed pipe, 
and emits a weird noise which is presumably to be taken for 
music. After some more minutes, he takes up the cloth to show 
us that the little plant has grown a few inches higher. This 
procedure of covering and uncovering, with due intervals 
of pipe music, is repeated until a small mango bush has emerged 
from the earth. It is about nine or ten inches high. Hardly a 
tree! But nevertheless a small yellowish gold mango fruit 
hangs from the top of the plant. 

"All this tree has sprung from the seed which you saw me 
bury in the earth ! " announces the Yogi triumphantly. 

My mental constitution does not permit me to accept his 
statement too readily. I feel, somehow, that the feat was a 
piece of mere jugglery. 

The young man delivers his opinion: 

"Sahib, that man is a Yogi. Such men can do wonderful 

But I am not satisfied. Trying to comprehend the mystery, 
I decide that the man is more likely a member of the Maskelyne 
and Devant fraternity. Yet how can one be certain about the 

The Yogi closes his bag and continues to crouch on his 
hams, while watching the crowd slowly disperse. 

An idea comes suddenly. When we are alone, I approach the 
Yogi, pull out a five-rupee note, and say to the student: 

"Tell him that he can have this money, if he will show me 
how the thing is done." 

The youth obediently translates my request. The man 
makes a show of refusal, but I catch the gleam of desire in his 

"Offer him seven rupees, then." 

Still the crouching man scorns my attempt to negotiate. 
"Very well, tell him that we bid him farewell." 
We proceed to walk away, though I purposely take slow 
steps. Within a few seconds the Yogi shouts and recalls us. 

"If the sahib will give one hundred rupees, the Yogi 
promises to tell all." 

"No! Seven - or he can keep his secret. Come!" 


Once again we move away. Soon there is another shout. 
We return. 

"The Yogi says he will accept the seven rupees." And the 
explanation duly comes forth. 

The man opens his travelling bag and produces the parapher- 
nalia with which his mystifying feat has been performed. It 
consists of a mango stone in bud and three slips of mango 
plant, each longer than the previous one. 

He compresses the shortest slip into a mussel shell. The 
plant bends round into this cramping position, the shell is 
closed and buried in the earth. To produce the first bud, the 
man has only to dig his fingers into the earth and remove the 
lid of the shell, when the plant will once more stand erect. 

The longer slips of plant are hidden within his cotton waist- 
wrap. During the intervals of waiting, chanting and music 
making, he raises the cloth cover once or twice to see how the 
growth is proceeding, without however permitting anyone else 
to do the same. Under cover of these movements, he deftly 
takes a longer slip from his waist-cloth, plants it in the earth, 
removes the shorter plant and replaces it in his dress. Thus the 
illusion of a growing plant is created. 

I walk away a little wiser, 'tis true, but I begin to wonder 
whether my last illusions about these Yogis will fall from me 
like bronze leaves rustled off the trees in autumn. 

And then I remember the warning given me by Brama, the 
Yogi of the Adyar river, that faqueers of a low order and pseudo 
Yogis give performances in the streets that are nothing but 
conjuring feats. Such men bring the name of Yogi into dis- 
credit with the younger people and educated classes, he has 
informed me. 

This man who makes mangoes grow in less than half an hour 
is no real Yogi; he is a pretender. 


Nevertheless the faqueers who practise a true magic do exist. 
One comes to me during a halt at Berhampur, while I go to a 
second at Puri. 

In this town of Berhampur, where the old customs and dusty 
ways of Hindu life refuse to be dislodged, I have taken tem- 
porary quarters in a rest-house which possesses a widely roofed 
veranda. One broiling afternoon I seek refuge from the stifling 
heat in the pleasant shade of this veranda. From my long 


chair I watch the play of sunshine upon the luxuriant foliage of 
some tropical plants in the garden. 

There comes the almost silent patter of naked feet and a 
rather wild-looking man, carrying a small bamboo basket 
approaches the compound gate. He has long, black, tangled 
locks and I notice that his eyes are a little bloodshot. He comes 
closer, deposits his basket in the dust, and momentarily raises 
his hands to cover his face as a salute. He addresses me in a 
mixture of vernacular and faintly recognizable English. I fancy 
that the vernacular is Telegu, though I am not sure. The 
accent of his English is so execrable that I am unable to grasp 
the meaning of more than three or four words. I retaliate by 
trying some sentences in English on him, but his command of 
the language is totally insufficient to enable him to understand 
me. My command of Telegu, however, is even more insuffi- 
cient to enable me to understand him. We both discover this 
fact after we have attempted utterances which are nothing more 
than long strings of sound to the other. Finally, he attempts to 
devise a language of gesture and facial expression until I gather 
that he has something of importance in the basket to show 

I dive into the bungalow and call for the servant, who knows 
a sprinkling of English - just about enough to sprinkle some 
intelligibility upon his own vernacular verbosity. I bid him do 
what he can to translate. 

"He wishes show you faqueer's magic, master." 

"Excellent. Let him show it, then. How much money 
does he want? " 

"He says master can give what he pleases." 

"Go ahead!" 

The faqueer's unkempt appearance and unknown origin 
alternately intrigue and repel me. It is difficult to fathom 
the expression on this man's countenance. There is something 
almost sinister about it, yet I do not feel the presence of evil. 
What I sense around him is an aura of strange forces, 
unfamiliar powers. 

He makes no attempt to mount the veranda steps, but squats 
down under a banyan tree, whose long, rambling branches 
form a low canopy which trails over his head and sinks to the 
ground. Out of the bamboo basket he draws forth a venomous- 
looking scorpion, which he holds by means of a pair of rudely 
made wooden pincers. 

The unpleasant-looking insect tries to run away. Immedi- 
ately the faqueer draws a circle around it in the dust, using his 


index finger. Thereafter, it continues to run round and round. 
Each time it reaches the circle it hesitates, as though confronting 
some visible barrier, and then goes off in another direction. I 
watch the thing closely in that hard brilliant tropical light. 

After two or three minutes of this peculiar exhibition, I 
raise my hand in a gesture of satisfaction and the faqueer 
replaces the scorpion in his basket, from which he next draws 
out two sharp, thin, pointed iron skewers. 

He closes his somewhat terrifying, reddened eyes and seems 
to wait for an appropriate moment to perform his next piece of 
magic. At length he opens his optical organs, takes one of the 
skewers and puts it into his mouth, point foremost. He forces 
it through his cheek until most of its length protrudes strangely 
outside his face. As if not satisfied with this slightly gruesome 
feat, he repeats it by forcing the second skewer through his 
other cheek. Mingled sensations of repulsion and wonder 
flow through me. 

When he imagines that I have seen enough, he withdraws 
each of the skewers in turn and proffers a salute. I descend the 
veranda steps and closely examine his face. Beyond a few 
insignificant drops of blood and two tiny holes in the skin, 
both wounds are hardly noticeable! 

The man makes a gesture to bid me occupy my chair again. 
When I am once more reclining on the veranda, he quietly 
composes himself for two or three minutes as though in further 
preparation for some striking feat. 

Calmly, with the detachment with which one might pull a 
button from a jacket, the faqueer's right hand ascends to his 
eyes, seizes the right eyeball and gradually pulls it out of its 

I start back, astonished. 

There is a few seconds' interval and he draws the organ a 
little farther out, so that it hangs loosely on his cheek, suspended 
by protruding muscles and veins. 

A feeling of nausea overwhelms me at the ghastly sight. I 
remain uneasy until he replaces the dislodged eyeball in its 

I have had enough of his magic and reward him with some 
silver rupees. Half-heartedly, I ask the servant to enquire if 
the man is willing to explain how he performs these anatomical 

"Promise no tell, master. Father teach son only. Only 
family know." 

His unwillingness does not disturb me. After all, it is a 


matter more for the investigation of surgeons and doctors than 
for errant writers. 

The faqueer covers his face with his hands in a parting 
salute, retreats through the gates of the compound, and soon 
disappears down the dusty road. 


The quiet ripple of the waves at Puri comes to my ears. It is 
pleasant to catch the tang of a faint breeze which blows in from 
the Bay of Bengal. I walk upon a deserted part of the shore, 
where yellowish white sands stretch away in a broad expanse 
and where one sees the horizon through the hot, shimmering 
haze which fills the air. The sea is like liquid sapphire. 

My watch glitters in the glaring sunlight as I draw it out of a 
pocket. Retracing my steps to the town, I walk right into an 
inexplicable performance which is destined to provide me with a 
standing puzzle. 

I discover a gaudily dressed man surrounded by a mixed 
crowd. His turban and pyjama trousers reveal him as a 
Muhammedan. I reflect on the anachronism that a Muham- 
medan should be so prominent in a town which is so pro- 
nouncedly Hindu. The man piques my curiosity and arouses 
my interest. He has a little, tame monkey which is quaintly 
dressed in coloured clothes. He puts it through its paces and 
each time it unerringly obeys the commands of its master with 
an intelligence which is almost human. 

Espying me, the man says something to the creature, which 
straightaway hops through the crowd and accosts me with a 
plaintive cry. It then removes its hat and holds it out before 
me, as though begging for baksheesh. I throw in a four anna 
piece. The monkey politely bows its head, makes a sort of 
curtsy, and then returns to its master. 

Its next performance is to execute an amazing dance in 
perfect time to the music pressed out of an old accordion by the 
man. It possesses an artistic grace and exquisite sense of 
rhythm worthy of a better stage. 

When the show comes to an end, the man addresses a few 
words in Urdu to his assistant - a young Muhammedan - who 
approaches me and asks me to enter a tent which stands at the 
rear, as his master has something special to show me. 

While the youth remains outside to keep back the press of 
people, I enter the tent with the gaudily dressed man. I dis- 


cover inside that the structure is really a cloth partition flung 
around four upright posts, and that it is quite roofless. One 
can see, therefore, almost as well inside it as out. A plain, light 
wooden table occupies the centre. 

The man opens a linen wrap and takes out several tiny dolls, 
each about two inches high. The heads are made of coloured 
wax and the legs of stiff straw shod with flat, iron buttons. 
The man then places the tiny figures on the table, so that each 
one stands quite erect upon its iron buttons. 

He withdraws about a yard from the table and begins to issue 
commands in Urdu. Within a minute or two, the dolls com- 
mence to stir around the table and then to dance! 

He waves a short wand, much as an orchestra conductor 
wields his baton to beat time, and the coloured little figures 
dance away in perfect rhythm with his flourishes! 

They move all over the table's surface, but carefully avoid 
falling over the edge. I see this amazing display in full day- 
light at about four o'clock in the afternoon. Suspecting some 
trick, I move nearer the table and examine it thoroughly, even 
moving my arms above the figures and below the table in quest 
of strands of thread, but I can find nothing untoward. Is the 
man not a mere conjuror but a faqueer of some kind? 

He then proceeds to indicate, by means of signs and words, 
that I should point out different parts of the table. I do so and 
on each occasion the dolls mass themselves together and dance 
in a body towards the precise direction which I indicate! 

Lastly he shows me a rupee piece and utters something which 
I intuitively divine as a request to produce such a coin. I take 
one out of my pocket and place it on the table. Almost immedi- 
ately the silver coin commences to dance across the surface 
towards the faqueer. When it reaches the farther edge of the 
table, it falls off and rolls over to his feet, where it suddenly 
stops. The man picks it up and keeps it, making some courtly 
salaams in acknowledgment. 

Am I witnessing some remarkable piece of conjuring or a feat 
of real Yogi magic? My doubts must be clearly writing them- 
selves upon my face, for the faqueer calls in his young assistant. 
The latter asks me whether I wish to see some more of his 
master's power. I reply in the affirmative, whereupon he hands 
the old accordion to the faqueer and then requests me to place 
my ring on the table. I take the ring off my finger and obey 
him. It is the same ring which Brama, the anchorite of the 
Adyar river, presented me as a farewell gift. I watch its golden 
claws and greenish stone, the while the faqueer withdraws a 


few paces away and issues command after command in Urdu. 
At each word the ring rises into the air and falls again! The 
man makes an appropriate gesture with his right hand syn- 
chronously with his commands; his left hand still holds the 

Now he begins to play the instrument and, before my 
astounded gaze, the ring starts to dance upon the table in 
harmony with the music! The man has not approached it, 
has not even touched it. I do not know what to make of this 
remarkable performance. How is it possible to transform so 
mysterious a piece of inanimate matter, and to make it into an 
object that responds to verbal commands? 

When the assistant returns my ring I examine it closely, but 
can find no trace of any mark. 

Once again the faqueer unwraps his cotton package. This 
time he draws out a rusty, flat iron bar. It is about two and a 
half inches long and a half inch in width. He is about to place 
it on the table, when I intervene and request the assistant to let 
me examine it. They raise no objection and I carefully 
scrutinize it. There are no threads attached to it. I return it 
and look over the table, but find nothing suspicious. 

The bar rests on the table top. The faqueer vigorously rubs 
the palms of his hands together for about one minute. Then 
he bends his trunk slightly forward and holds his hands a few 
inches above the iron bar. I watch him attentively. He begins 
to draw his hands slowly backward, still pointing his fingers 
toward the bar, when my startled eyes see the rusty object 
follow him. It moves over the table-top of its own accord, 
parallel to the faqueer's backward movement! 

The distance between the man's fingers and the bar is about 
five inches. When his hands hover above the table's edge, the 
bar likewise rests there. Once again I ask to be allowed to 
examine it. Permission is readily granted. I pick it up 
immediately, but find nothing wrong; it is just a scrap of old 

The faqueer repeats the same feat with a small, steel- 
handled knife. 

I reward him liberally for these unusual displays and then 
endeavour to obtain some explanation of them. The faqueer 
vouchsafes the information that it is usually essential for the 
object to be made of, or to contain, iron, because iron possesses 
a peculiar psychic quality; now, he has so perfected himself 
in this art that he can perform the same feat with objects made 
of gold. 


I seek in mind for a solution of his secret. Almost at once, 
it occurs to me that a long thin hair, looped at one end, could 
catch the bar in its loop and yet remain practically invisible. 
And then I remember my dancing ring, the fact that the 
faqueer's both hands were occupied with the accordeon, and 
that he stood several paces away. Neither can the assistant be 
accused of complicity, for he stood outside the tent during the 
movements of the dolls. However, in order to test the matter 
still further, I praise the man as being a clever conjurer and 

His brow darkens and he vehemently denies being one. 

"What are you then?" I press home my enquiry. 

"I am a true faqueer," he answers proudly through the 

assistant, " a practiser of the art of ." I am unable to 

catch the last word, which is some Urdu name. 

I tell him of my interest in these things. 

"Yes, I observed that even before you reached the crowd," 
he replies, disconcertingly. " That is why I invited you to 
this tent." 


"Yes, do not imagine that I am collecting money through 
greed. It is because I need a certain sum to build a mausoleum 
for my late master. I have set my heart upon this work and 
I shall not rest until it is built." 

I beg him to tell me a little more about his life. Very 
reluctantly, he yields to the request. 

"When I was a boy of thirteen I was occupied in taking care 
of a herd of goats for my father. One day there came to our 
village a lean ascetic whose thinness was almost terrifying. 
The bones seemed to be sticking up out of his skin. He asked 
for a night's food and shelter, which was readily given him by 
my father, who always treated holy men with respect and 
regard. However, instead of staying for a single night, his 
stay extended for more than a year; such was the liking which 
our family formed for him, that my father continually pressed 
him to remain and enjoy our hospitality. He was a wonderful 
man and we early discovered that he possessed strange 
powers. One evening, as we sat at our simple meal of rice 
and vegetables, he looked at me several times very closely and 
I wondered why. The following morning he came to the place 
where I was tending the goats and sat down by my side. 

'"My child,' he said, 'would you like to become a 
faqueer?' " 

I did not have a very clear idea of what that sort of life 


was like, but its freedom and strangeness appealed greatly 
to me. So I told him that I would be glad to become one. 
He spoke to my parents and said that he would return when I 
was three years older, and then he would take me away with 
him. Strangely enough, both my parents died during that 
time so that when he came I was quite free to accompany him. 
Thereafter we roamed the land, going from village to village; 
I as his disciple, he as my master. All the marvels which you 
have seen to-day are really his, for he taught me how to do 

"Is it possible to learn these things easily?" I ask. 

The faqueer laughs. 

"Only by many years of hard practices can a man master 
such things." 

Somehow, I feel that his story rings true. He seems a 
pleasant, sincere sort of man. Though I am sceptical by 
temperament, yet I keep my scepticism on a leash. 

As I stagger out of the tent, uncertain whether I have lived 
through an extraordinary dream, the pleasant breeze revives 
me. I hear it stir a row of graceful coconut trees which shadow 
a distant compound. The farther I walk away, the more 
incredible those feats appear to me. I would like to suspect 
some trick on the faqueer's part, yet I feel that his character 
is more honest than not. But how can one explain this amazing 
art of moving material objects without visible contact? I do 
not understand how anyone can alter natural laws at his mere 
whim. Perhaps we do not know as much about the nature 
of things as we think we do. 


Puri is one of the sacred cities of India. Monasteries and 
temples have found a home here since antiquity. Pilgrims pour 
into the town during certain years of festival, and help to pull 
the gigantic Car of Juggernaut on its two-mile journey. I take 
the opportunity to study the holy men who pass through the 
place, and in the result have to modify my earlier unfavourable 

One wandering holy man, who speaks broken but under- 
standable English, proves to be quite a fine character when I 
get into closer acquaintance with him. He is on the right side 
of forty and wears a thin necklace of berries around his throat. 
He tells me that he roams from shrine to shrine upon pilgrimage, 


and from monastery to monastery. Wearing only a single robe 
and begging his food, his ambition is to visit the chief sacred 
places of the East and South. I help him with a little alms. 
In return he shows me a small book printed in Tamil. It is so 
yellow-stained and weather-worn as to appear nearly a century 
old. It contains several quaint woodcuts. Slowly and care- 
fully he cuts out two of the pictures and presents them to 

My encounter with the Literary Sadhu, as I name him, is 
more amusing. It happens one morning when I sit upon the 
sands, reading the rose-scented pages of Omar Khayyam. 
The Rubd'iyat is a poem which always fascinates me, but 
since the day when a young Persian writer initiated me into 
its deeper meaning, I find a twofold pleasure in drinking the 
wine of its quatrains. This delight which the poem holds for 
me accounts, perhaps, for the fact that I am so absorbed in 
it as not to notice the figure which walks across the sands 
towards me. It is only when raising my eyes from the printed 
pages at last that I see this unexpected visitor squatting on 
folded legs beside me. 

He wears a holy man's yellow robe and on the ground he 
has placed a walking-staff and a small linen bundle. I notice 
the edges of some books peeping out of the latter. 

"Pardon me, sir," says the man in excellent English as he 
introduces himself, " but I, too, am a student of your literature." 
He begins to untie the knot of his linen bundle. " Please do 
not be offended, sir. I could not resist talking to you." 

"Offended? Not at all!" I smile back at him. 

"You are a tourist?" 

"Hardly that." 

"But you have not lived long in our country?" he persists. 

I make a nodding assent. 

He unrolls the bundle and displays three cloth-bound books 
with worn-looking covers and tattered corners, some paper- 
wrapped pamphlets and some writing paper. 

"Observe, sir, here I have Essays, by Lord Macaulay. A 
wonderful literary style, sir, a great intellect - but what a 

So I have stumbled across a budding literary critic, I 

"This book is A Tale of Two Cities, by Mr. Charles Dickens. 
What sentiment, what tear-bringing pathos, sir!" 

After that the holy man quickly wraps his treasures together 
and turns to address me once more. 


"If it is not too impertinent, may I inquire the title of the 
book you are reading, sir? " 

"I am reading a book by Khayyam." 

"Mr. Khayyam? I have not heard of him. Is he one of 
your novelists? " 

I laugh at the question. 

"No - a poet." 

There is an interval of silence. 

"You are very inquisitive," I remark. "Is it alms that you 
want? " 

"I did not come for money, sir," he answers slowly. " What 
I really want, what I hope for, is that you will present me with 
a book. I am so fond of reading, you see." 

"Yes, you shall have a book. When I return to the bungalow 
you may accompany me, and I shall find you something slow 
and early Victorian that will be sure to please you." 

"My deep gratitude, sir." 

"Wait a moment. Before I give you the present I want 
you to tell me something. What is the third book in your 
bundle? " 

"Ah, sir! it is a most uninteresting volume." 

"Quite possibly. But I would like to know its title." 

"It is most unworthy of mention, sir." 

"Do you still want the book I have promised you?" 

The other man becomes a little panic-stricken. 

"I do, indeed, sir. I must tell you, since you force me. It 
is called Mammonism and Materialism: A Study of the West, 
by a Hindu Critic." 

I pretend to look shocked. 

"Oh, ho 1 So that is the kind of literature you 
study? " 

"It was given to me by a merchant in the town," he excuses 
himself in a weak, apologetic manner. 

"Let me see it, then." 

I run my eyes over the chapter headings of his tattered 
volume and read a page here and there. It is written in 
declamatory style by some Bengali babu and published in 
Calcutta - probably at its author's expense. On the strength 
of the two degrees tacked on to the end of his name, but 
without any first-hand acquaintance with his subject, the 
writer luridly pictures Europe and America as a kind of new 
inferno, full of suffering and gloom, and peopled by tortured 
working-classes and sybaritic plutocrats engaged in debased 


I return the book without comment. The holy man hastily 
puts it away and produces one of his pamphlets. 

"This contains a short biography of an Indian saint, but it 
is printed in Bengalee," he informs me. 

"Now tell me - do you agree with the writer of 
Mammonism," I ask. 

"Just a little, sir; just a little! It is my ambition to travel 
to the West one day; then I shall see it for myself." 

"And what will you do there?" 

"I shall deliver lectures to transform the darkness of 
peoples' minds into light. I would like to follow in the foot- 
steps of our great Swami Vivekananda, who gave such captiva- 
ting orations in the great cities of your lands. Alas, that he 
died so young! What a golden tongue died with him!" 

"Well, you are a strange kind of holy man," I remark. 

He raises a forefinger to the side of his nose and replies, with 
a sapient air: 

"The Supreme Playwright has set the stage. What are we 
but actors who make our entrances and exits, as your world- 
renowned Shakespeare says! " 


I come now to the realization that India's holy men are an 
extremely mixed lot. Many are good, inoffensive people for 
the most part, even though they seem anaemic from the angle 
of power or wisdom. Others are either failures in worldly life 
or just men looking for an easy living. One of these men 
approaches me and begs for baksheesh. His matted hair, 
ash-smeared body and rascally face give him a repulsive 
appearance. I decide to resist his importunities, if only to 
study the result. Resistance merely increases his persistence. 
When, finally, he tries a new tack by offering to sell me his 
bead rosary - to which dirty-looking object he attaches rever- 
ential importance, if I am to judge by the exorbitant price he 
demands - I bid him begone. 

Less common are those foolish ascetics who publicly display 
their efforts at self-torture. The man who holds an arm aloft 
in the air until his nails are half a yard long may be matched 
by the man who stands on one leg for years. What either 
hopes to gain from these unattractive exhibitions - aside from 
the few annas he may collect in the begging bowl which rests 
at his side - it is not easy to determine. 


A few seem to practise a sinister sorcery quite openly. 
They are the voodoo men of India and work mainly in the 
villages. For a small fee, they will injure your enemy, dispose 
of an unfavoured wife or clear the path of your ambition by 
striking your rival down with mysterious sickness. One hears 
dark and astonishing tales concerning these black magicians. 
Yet they, too, rejoice in the name of Yogi or faqueer. 

Remains a cultured remnant of holy men who condemn 
themselves to long years of distracted search, to periods of 
painful self-denial, and to ostracism from the conventional 
world of organized society, because they have gone forth in 
search of truth. They possess an instinct which plainly says 
- whether rightly or wrongly - that to attain to truth is to 
attain to lasting happiness. We may question the Indian's 
stereotyped, religious and world-renouncing way of conducting 
this search, but the urge which sends him forth is less open 
to question. 

The average man in the West has no time for such a quest. 
He possesses a good excuse for accepting the prevailing mood 
of indifference, because he knows that if he errs, then he errs 
in company with a whole continent. For this sceptical age 
treats the search after truth as a trifle, while spending its own 
energy upon the serious pursuit of what our best moments 
reveal as trifles. Somehow it never occurs to us that the few 
whose lives are spent in the passionate quest of life's real 
meaning, are more likely to form correct opinions on the prob- 
lems of the passing hour, than those who spend their energies 
upon a dozen different interests and have given barely a single 
thought to the discovery of truth. 

A Westerner once came down into the Punjab plains on a 
mission other than mine, but some folk he encountered there 
caused him to strike off at an unexpected tangent, until he 
came dangerously near to forgetting his primal purpose. 
Alexander the Great was looking for a vaster land than his 
own to put under his sceptre. He came as a soldier but it 
seemed that he might finish as a philosopher. 

I often speculate about the thoughts which ran through 
Alexander's brain as he drove his chariot homeward across icy 
mountains and parched deserts. It is not difficult to perceive 
that the Macedonian king, who fell under the spell of the sages 
and Yogis he encountered and spent days at a time eagerly 
questioning them and warmly discussing their philosophy, 
needed only a few more years' sojourn in their midst to startle 
the West with new departures in policy. 


The holy men of to-day still contain some among their ranks 
who do much to keep alive what there is of idealism and spirit- 
uality in the country. That the undesirables are in the majority 
is possible; if so, it is the inevitable result of time's degenerating 
activity, but it need not blind us to the presence of the saving 
remnant, who shine out all the more. One meets such a 
bewildering variety that it does not seem advisable to affix 
a label, either of praise or blame, upon the whole race. I 
understand the attitude of those hot-headed students of the 
towns who assure me that the extermination of these "parasitic 
holy men" will constitute a great blessing on India. I equally 
understand those milder spirits who, older in years and residents 
of quieter towns, inform me that if Indian society can no longer 
provide for its holy men, then it is doomed. 

The problem is important to India in other directions, for 
economic distress is compelling certain revaluations. The holy 
man fulfils no useful economic function in the country. Swarms 
of ignorant and untaught persons wander through the villages 
and attend the periodic religious fairs in certain cities. They 
become bogy-men to the children, and impertinent, impor- 
tunate beggars to adults. They are a burden to society, for 
they have nothing to give in return for that which they receive. 
Yet there exist also really noble men who have thrown up good 
positions or given away their property, in order to go forth and 
find God. Wherever they go they endeavour to exalt those 
with whom they come in contact. If character counts, then 
their efforts to uplift themselves and others is surely worth the 
bit of bread or plate of rice they receive. 

One can only say, in conclusion, that one must strip the 
spiritual skin off a man, whether he be vain humbug or saintly 
wanderer, if his real worth is to be rightly estimated. 


The black mantilla of night descends upon the ample 
shoulders of this earth, the while I wander through narrow, 
overcrowded lanes in old Calcutta. 

My mind is still haunted by a gruesome sight of the 
morning. Our train puffs into Howrah Station bearing a 
ghastly cargo on its cow-catcher. The line runs for many miles 
through a dangerous jungle where princely panthers roam freely. 
During the night our engine hits a beast, kills it instantly, and 
carries the broken body into the station. The panther's torn, 
jagged flesh is not easily dislodged from the iron frame. 


But in the onward-rushing train I have picked up another 
thread of guidance in this quest. Like most main-line trains 
in India, it is packed to the point of fullness. The compart- 
ment in which I have been fortunate enough to find a berth - 
for all trains carry sleeping berths, except in the lowest class - 
contains a mixed crew. They discuss their affairs so openly 
that soon one learns who and what they are. There is a vener- 
able son of Islam who is attired in a long, black silk coat, which 
is buttoned around his neck. A round black cap, neatly 
embroidered in gold, rests on his thinly thatched head. White 
pyjama trousers are gathered around his legs, while his shoes 
provide an artistic finish to his dress for they are daintily made 
with red and green threadwork. There is a beetle-browed 
Mahratti from Western India; a gold-turbaned Marwari who, 
like many members of his race, is a moneylender; and a stout 
Brahmin lawyer from the South. They are all men of some 
wealth for they are attended by personal servants who dart 
out of their third-class carriages at most stopping-places, to 
enquire after their masters' welfare. 

The Muhammedan gives me a single glance, closes his eyes, 
and drifts off into vacuous sleep. The Mahratti busies himself 
in conversation with the Marwari. The Brahmin has recently 
entered the train; he has yet to settle down. 

I am in one of my talkative moods, but there is no one to 
whom I can talk. The invisible barrier between West and East 
seems to divide me from all the others. I feel cheered, there- 
fore, when the rubicund Brahmin pulls out a book whose 
English title, Life of Ramakrishna, I cannot help seeing, so 
boldly is it printed upon the cover. I seize the bait and bring 
him into conversation. Has not someone once told me that 
Ramakrishna was the last of the Rishees, those spiritual super- 
men? Upon this point I engage my fellow-traveller, and he 
is eager to respond. We ascend the heights of philosophical 
discussion and descend into talk on the homelier aspects of 
Indian life. 

Whenever he mentions the name of the Rishee, his voice fills 
with love and awe and his eyes light up. The reality of his 
devotion to this long-passed man is indubitable. Within two 
hours I learn that the Brahmin has a master who is one of the two 
or three surviving disciples of the great Ramakrishna himself. 
This master of his is nearly eighty years old and lives, not in 
some lonely retreat, but in the heart of Calcutta's Indian 

Of course, I beg for the address and it is freely given. 


"You will need no introduction other than your own desire 
to see him," says the lawyer. 

And so I am now in Calcutta itself, searching for the house of 
the Master Mahasaya, the aged disciple of Ramakrishna. 

Passing through an open courtyard which adjoins the street, 
I reach a steep flight of steps leading into a large, rambling old 
house. I climb up a dark stairway and pass through a low door 
on the top storey. I find myself in a small room, which opens 
out on to the flat, terraced roof of the house. Two of its walls 
are lined with low divans. Save for the lamp and a small pile 
of books and papers, the room is otherwise bare. A young man 
enters and bids me wait for the coming of his master, who is 
on a lower floor. 

Ten minutes pass. I hear the sound of someone stirring 
from a room on the floor below out into the stairway. Immedi- 
ately there is a tingling sensation in my head and the idea 
suddenly grips me that that man downstairs has fixed his 
thoughts upon me. I hear the man's footsteps going up the 
stairs. When at last - for he moves with extreme slowness - 
he enters the room, I need no one to announce his name. A 
venerable patriarch has stepped from the pages of the Bible, 
and a figure from Mosaic times has turned to flesh. This man 
with bald head, long white beard, and white moustache, grave 
countenance, and large, reflective eyes; this man whose 
shoulders are slightly bent with the burden of nearly eighty 
years of mundane existence, can be none other than the master 

He takes his seat on a divan and then turns his face towards 
mine. In that grave, sober presence I realize instantly that 
there can be no light persiflage, no bandying of wit or humour, 
no utterance even of the harsh cynicism and dark scepticism 
which overshadow my soul from time to time. His 
character, with its commingling of perfect faith in God and 
nobility of conduct, is written in his appearance for all to 

He addresses me in perfectly accented English. 

"You are welcome here." 

He bids me come closer and take my seat on the same divan. 
He holds my hand for a few moments. I deem it expedient 
to introduce myself and explain the object of my visit. When 
I have concluded speaking, he presses my hand again in a 
kindly manner and says: 

" It is a higher power which has stirred you to come to India, 
and which is bringing you in contact with the holy men of our 


land. There is a real purpose behind that, and the future will 
surely reveal it. Await it patiently." 

"Will you tell me something about your master Rama- 

"Ah, now you raise a subject about which I love best to 
talk. It is nearly half a century since he left us, but his blessed 
memory can never leave me; always it remains fresh and 
fragrant in my heart. I was twenty-seven when I met him and 
was constantly in his society for the last five years of his life. 
The result was that I became a changed man; my whole 
attitude towards life was reversed. Such was the strange 
influence of this god-man Ramakrishna. He threw a spiritual 
spell upon all who visited him. He literally charmed them, 
fascinated them. Even materialistic persons who came to 
scoff became dumb in his presence." 

"But how can such persons feel reverence for spirituality 
- a quality in which they do not believe?" I interpose, slightly 

The corners of Mahasaya's mouth pull up in a half smile. 
He answers: 

"Two persons taste red pepper. One does not know its 
name; perhaps he has never even seen it before. The other is 
well acquainted with it and recognizes it immediately. Will it 
not taste the same to both? Will not both of them have a burn- 
ing sensation on the tongue? In the same way, ignorance of 
Ramakrishna's spiritual greatness did not debar materialistic 
persons from 'tasting' the radiant influence of spirituality 
which emanated from him." 

"Then he really was a spiritual superman?" 

"Yes, and in my belief even more than that. Ramakrishna 
was a simple man, illiterate and uneducated - he was so illiterate 
that he could not even sign his name, let alone write a letter. 
He was humble in appearance and humbler still in mode of 
living, yet he commanded the allegiance of some of the best- 
educated and most-cultured men of the time in India. They 
had to bow before his tremendous spirituality which was so 
real that it could be felt. He taught us that pride, riches, 
wealth, worldly honours, worldly position are trivialities in 
comparison with that spirituality, are fleeting illusions which 
deceive men. Ah, those were wonderful days! Often he 
would pass into trances of so palpably divine a nature that we 
who were gathered around him then would feel that he was a 
god, rather than a man. Strangely, too, he possessed the power 
of inducing a similar state in his disciples by means of a 


single touch; in this state they could understand the deep 
mysteries of God by means of direct perception. But let me 
tell you how he affected me. 

"I had been educated along Western lines. My head was 
filled with intellectual pride. I had served in Calcutta colleges 
as Professor of English Literature, History and Political 
Economy, at different times. Ramakrishna was living in the 
temple of Dakshineswar, which is only a few miles up the river 
from Calcutta. There I found him one unforgettable spring 
day and listened to his simple expression of spiritual ideas born 
of his own experience. I made a feeble attempt to argue with 
him but soon became tongue-tied in that sacred presence, 
whose effect on me was too deep for words. Again and again 
I visited him, unable to stay away from this poor, humble 
but divine person, until Ramakrishna one day humorously 

" ' A peacock was given a dose of opium at four o'clock. The 
next day it appeared again exactly at that hour. It was under 
the spell of opium and came for another dose.' 

"That was true, symbolically speaking. I had never enjoyed 
such blissful experiences as when I was in the presence of 
Ramakrishna, so can you wonder why I came again and again? 
And so I became one of his group of intimate disciples, as 
distinguished from merely occasional visitors. One day the 
master said to me: 

' " I can see from the signs of your eyes, brow and face that 
you are a Yogi. Do all your work then, but keep your mind on 
God. Wife, children, father and mother, live with all and 
serve them as if they are your own. The tortoise swims about 
in the waters of the lake, but her mind is fixed to where her 
eggs are laid on the banks. So, do all the work of the world 
but keep the mind in God.' 

"And so, after the passing away of our master, when most 
of the other disciples voluntarily renounced the world, adopted 
the yellow robe, and trained themselves to spread Rama- 
krishna's message through India, I did not give up my pro- 
fession but carried on with my work in education. Neverthe- 
less, such was my determination not to be of the world although 
I was in it, that on some nights I would retire at dead of night 
to the open veranda before the Senate House and sleep among 
the homeless beggars of the city, who usually collected there to 
spend the night. This used to make me feel, temporarily at 
least, that I was a man with no possessions. 

"Ramakrishna has gone, but as you travel through India 


you will see something of the social, philanthropic, medical and 
educational work being done throughout the country under the 
inspiration of those early disciples of his, most of whom, alas! 
have now passed away too. What you will not see so easily is the 
number of changed hearts and changed lives primarily due to 
this wonderful man. For his message has been handed down 
from disciple to disciple, who have spread it as widely as they 
could. And I have been privileged to take down many of his 
sayings in Bengali; the published record has entered almost 
every household in Bengal, while translations have also gone 
into other parts of India. So you see how Ramakrishna's 
influence has spread far beyond the immediate circle of his 
little group of disciples." 

Mahasaya finishes his long recital and relapses into silence. 
As I look at his face anew, I am struck by the non-Hindu colour 
and cast of his face. Again I am wafted back to a little kingdom 
in Asia Minor, where the children of Israel find a temporary 
respite from their hard fortunes. I picture Mahasaya among 
them as a venerable prophet speaking to his people. How 
noble and dignified the man looks! His goodness, honesty, 
virtue, piety and sincerity are transparent. He possesses that 
self-respect of a man who has lived a long life in utter obedience 
to the voice of conscience. 

"I wonder what Ramakrishna would say to a man who cannot 
live by faith alone, who must satisfy reason and intellect?" I 
murmur questioningly. 

"He would tell the man to pray. Prayer is a tremendous 
force. Ramakrishna himself prayed to God to send him 
spiritually inclined people, and soon after that those who later 
became his disciples or devotees began to appear." 

"But if one has never prayed - what then?" 

"Prayer is the last resort. It is the ultimate resource left to 
man. Prayer will help a man where the intellect may fail." 

"But if someone came to you and said that prayer did not 
appeal to his temperament. What counsel would you give 
him?" I persist gently. 

"Then let him associate frequently with truly holy men who 
have had real spiritual experience. Constant contact with them 
will assist him to bring out his latent spirituality. Higher men 
turn our minds and wills towards divine objects. Above all, 
they stimulate an intense longing for the spiritual life. There- 
fore, the society of such men is very important as the first step, 
and often it is also the last, as Ramakrishna himself used to say." 

Thus we discourse of things high and holy, and how man can 


find no peace save in the Eternal Good. Throughout the evening 
different visitors make their arrival until the modest room is 
packed with Indians - disciples of the master Mahasaya. They 
come nightly and climb the stairs of this four-storeyed house to 
listen intently to every word uttered by their teacher. 

And for a while I, too, join them. Night after night I come, 
less to hear the pious utterances of Mahasaya than to bask in the 
spiritual sunshine of his presence. The atmosphere around 
him is tender and beautiful, gentle and loving; he has found 
some inner bliss and the radiation of it seems palpable. Often I 
forget his words, but I cannot forget his benignant personality. 
That which drew him again and again to Ramakrishna seems 
to draw me to Mahasaya also, and I begin to understand how 
potent must have been the influence of the teacher when the 
pupil exercises such a fascination upon me. 

When our last evening comes, I forget the passage of time, 
as I sit happily at his side upon the divan. Hour after hour has 
flown by ; our talk has had no interlude of silence, but at length 
it comes. And then the good master takes my hand and leads 
me out to the terraced roof of his house where, in the vivid 
moonlight, I see a circling array of tall plants growing in pots 
and tubs. Down below a thousand lights gleam from the 
houses of Calcutta. 

The moon is at its full. Mahasaya points up towards its 
round face and then passes into silent prayer for a brief while. 
I wait patiently at his side until he finishes. He turns, raises 
his hand in benediction and lightly touches my head. 

I bow humbly before this angelic man, unreligious though I 
am. After a few more moments of continued silence, he says 

"My task has almost come to an end. This body has nearly 
finished what God sent it here to do. Accept my blessing 
before I go." 1 

He has strangely stirred me. I banish the thought of sleep 
and wander through many streets. When, at length, I reach a 
great mosque and hear the solemn chant, "God is most great! " 
break forth upon the midnight stillness, I reflect that if anyone 
could free me from the intellectual scepticism to which I cling 
and attach me to a life of simple faith, it is undoubtedly the 
master Mahasaya. 

1 Before long I was apprised of his death. 



"You have missed him. Perhaps it was destined that you 
should not meet. Who can tell?" 

The speaker is Dr. Bandyopadhya, House Surgeon to one of 
the Calcutta hospitals. He is one of the most skilful surgeons 
in the city; his hands have performed six thousand operations; 
his name possesses a string of degrees trailing after it; and I 
have derived much pleasure in carefully and critically examin- 
ing with him some of the knowledge of the Yoga of Body 
Control which I have picked up. His scientific training in 
medicine and his expert knowledge of anatomy have proved 
helpful in my endeavour to lift the subject of Yoga to a purely 
rational plane. 

"I know almost nothing of Yoga," he has confessed. "What 
you tell me is new to me. I have not even met a Yogi, that is, a 
real one, save Narasingha Swami, who came to Calcutta not 
long ago." 

It is then that I enquire after the latter's whereabouts, only 
to receive this disappointing answer. 

"Narasingha Swami flashed into Calcutta, created a sensa- 
tion, and then went off I know not where. I understood that he 
emerged suddenly out of retirement in the interior, before he 
came here, so he may have returned there." 

"I would like to know what happened." 

"He was the talk of the town for a short time. He was dis- 
covered by Dr. Neoghy, who is Professor of Chemistry at the 
Presidency College of Calcutta University, a month or two 
before at Madhupore. Dr. Neoghy saw him lick a few drops of 
poisonous acid, and also stuff glowing charcoal into his mouth 
and keep it there until it stopped glowing. The doctor's 
interest was aroused and the Yogi was persuaded to come to 
Calcutta. The University arranged to have a public demon- 
stration of Narasingha Swami's powers before an audience 
composed exclusively of scientists and medical men. I was 
among those invited to be present. It was held in the Physics 
Theatre of the Presidency College. We were a fairly critical 
lot and, as you know, I have given very little thought to matters 
of religion, Yoga, and suchlike things, because my attention 
has been centred on professional studies. 

"The Yogi stood in the centre of the theatre and he was 
handed poisons which had been taken from the college labora- 
tory stock. We gave him a bottle of sulphuric acid first. He 


poured a few drops into his palm and licked them up with his 
tongue. He was then given strong carbolic acid, and he licked 
that up too. We tried him with that deadly poison, potassium 
cyanide, but he swallowed it without turning a hair! The feat 
was astounding, unbelievable even, yet we had to accept the 
evidence of our own eyes. He had taken enough potassium 
cyanide to kill any other man within three minutes at most, yet 
there he stood smiling and apparently unharmed. 

"After that, a thick glass bottle was broken and the pieces 
were ground down to a powder. Narasingha Swami swallowed 
the powder, which can slowly kill. Three hours after swallow- 
ing this strange meal, one of our Calcutta doctors applied a 
stomach pump to the Yogi and the contents of his stomach were 
taken out. The poisons were still there. And on the following 
day the powdered glass was discovered in his stool. 

"The thoroughness of our test was beyond dispute. The 
strength of the sulphuric acid was shown by its destructive 
effect on a copper coin. Among those present at the demonstra- 
tion was Sir C. V. Raman, the famous scientist and winner of 
the Nobel prize, who described the performance as a challenge 
to modern science. When we asked Narasingha Swami how 
he was able to take such liberties with his body, he told us that 
immediately on his return home he would go into a Yoga trance 
and, by an intense concentration of the mind, counteract the 
deadly effect of the poisons." 1 

"Can you offer any explanation based on your medical 

The doctor shakes his head. 

"No, I can offer none. It completely baffles me." 

When I return home, I hunt through a trunk for the note- 
book in which I have recorded my conversations with Brama, 
the Yogi of the Adyar river. I turn the pages rapidly until I 
find this note: 

"Poisons cannot harm the adept who has practised the 
Grand Exercise, no matter how violent they be. This exercise 
is a combination of certain posture, breathing, will-power and 
mind concentration exercises. According to our tradition, it 
confers upon the adept the power of absorbing any object he 
chooses, even poisons, without being inconvenienced. It is an 

1 Narasingha Swami reappeared in Calcutta some time later, and 
then proceeded to Rangoon, Burma. Here he gave a similar demon- 
stration, but, owing to a press of unexpected visitors, omitted to 
follow his usual practice of entering the Yoga trance on arrival home. 
The result was that he died with tragic swiftness. 


exceedingly difficult practice and must be regularly done if it is 
to keep its merit. A very old man once told me of a Yogi who 
lived in Benares and who could drink large quantities of poison 
without being harmed. This Yogi's name was Trailingya 
Swami; he was very well known in the town in those days, but 
he died many years ago. Trailingya was a great adept who was 
very learned in the Yoga of Body Control. He sat almost 
clothes-less on the banks of the Ganges for years, but no one 
could hold converse with him because he had imposed a vow of 
silence upon himself." 

Incredible and impossible I had deemed this immunity to 
poison, when Brama had brought the subject within the line of 
my vision for the first time. But now, my preconceived ideas 
of the limits of what is possible have become a little shaky. 
Sometimes I have wondered at the unbelievable and almost 
incomprehensible tasks which these Yogis set themselves, yet 
who knows - perhaps they possess secrets which we Westerners 
are vainly trying to discover through a thousand laboratory 



MY wanderings in Bengal must hasten into the limbo of 
unrecorded experience, and my unexpected contacts 
near Buddha-Gay a with three Tibetan lamas, who 
proffer an invitation to their mountain monastery, must likewise 
follow suit, for I am eager to enter the sacred city of Benares. 

The train thunders across the great iron bridge near the city, 
its noise heralding, no doubt, modernity's further invasion of 
an antiquated and static form of society. The holy Ganges can 
hardly remain holy much longer when alien and infidel men 
send snorting fire-chariots across its greyish-green waters. 

So this is Benares! 

A huge crowd of pilgrims jostle each other while I pass out 
of the station and step into a waiting carriage. As we drive 
along the dusty road I become aware of a new element in the 
atmosphere. I try to ignore it but, with increasing insistence, 
it forces itself upon my attention. 

So this is India's holiest city! Well, it possesses a most 
unholy smell! Benares is reputed to be the oldest populated 
town in India. Its odour fully confirms its reputation. The 
unsavoury air seems insupportable. I begin to lose courage. 
Shall I order the driver to take me back to the station? Is it 
not better to be an arrant infidel and breathe clean air than 
acquire piety at such a monstrous price? And then I reflect 
that time will somehow acclimatize one even to this air, as it 
acclimatizes one to more unfamiliar things still in this stale 
land. But Benares! you may be the hub of Hindu culture, yet 
please learn something from the infidel whites and temper your 
holiness with a little hygiene! 

I learn that the stench arises partly because the roads are 
paved with a mixture of cow-dung and earth, and partly 
because the old moat which surrounds the city has been used 
by the people of many generations as a convenient refuse 



If Indian chronicles can be credited, Benares was an estab- 
lished city as long ago as twelve hundred years before the 
Christian Era. Just as pious Englishmen journeyed to the holy 
city of Canterbury in the Middle Ages, so have Indians flocked 
from every part of their country to the holy city of Benares. 
Hindus come in their wealthy state or poverty-stricken 
condition to receive its blessing, while the ailing come to eke 
out their last days, for death here will take the soul straight 
into Paradise. 

The next day I wander afoot through old Kashi - as the 
Hindus prefer to call their city - and explore the labyrinth of 
crooked streets which compose it. There is a purpose behind 
my aimless wandering, for I bear in my pocket a paper which 
describes the location of the house of a Yogi wonder-worker, 
whose disciple I met in Bombay. 

I pass through stuffy streets along which a carriage would be 
too wide to pass. I make my way through crowded bazaars, 
where seethe the people of a dozen different races, and where 
mangy dogs and innumerable flies add to the bustle. Old 
women with grey hair and shrunken breasts; young women 
with supple figures and smooth, brown limbs; pilgrims finger- 
ing their rosaries and muttering the same sacred words which 
they have already repeated perhaps fifty thousand times; the 
gaunt figures of ash-besmeared elderly ascetics; all these and 
other types throng the narrow ways. Among a tangle of 
streets which are full of turmoil, noise and colour, I come 
accidentally upon the Golden Temple, which is famed among 
the orthodox throughout India. Ash-bedabbled ascetics, whose 
uncouth appearance is repellent to Western eyes, crouch around 
the entrance. Worshippers flow in and out in an endless 
stream. Several carry lovely flower garlands and thus give a 
gay colour to the scene. The pious touch the stone door-posts 
with their foreheads as they leave the temple and then, turning, 
start in momentary surprise on beholding the white infidel. I 
become conscious again of the invisible barrier between these 
men and myself, the profound barrier between white and brown 

Two domes, made of thick sheets of gold, glisten in the quiver- 
ing sunlight; screeching parrots swarm on the nearest tower. 
The Golden Temple is given over to the god Shiva. Where is 
he now, I wonder, this god to whom these Hindus cry, before 
whom they pray, and to whose stone representations I have 
seen them offer scented flowers and cooked rice? 

I move on and stand near the threshold of another temple, 


where I watch the god Krishna being worshipped. Lighted 
camphor burns before a golden idol; the temple bells peal out 
their insistent calls for his attention; and the sounds of conch 
horns stray up to his unhearing ears. A lean and austere priest 
comes out and looks questioningly at me, and I proceed upon 
my way. 

Who can count the multitude of images and idols which teem 
within the temples and houses of Benares? Who can explain 
these serious-looking Hindus - so often childish, yet sometimes 
so profoundly philosophical? 

Through the dark alleys I thread my way, afoot and alone, 
seeking the house of the wonder-worker. At length I emerge 
from the swarming streets into wider roads. A straggling, 
ragged column of little boys, thin youths and a few men, swing 
past me in single file. Their leader carries a makeshift banner, 
with something indecipherable inscribed upon the flag. They 
shout queer catchwords and occasional snatches of song. They 
look at me with hostile faces and scowling eyes as they go by, 
so that I sense the political nature of this motley procession. 
Last night, in a packed bazaar, with no European or policeman 
anywhere in sight, someone behind me hisses out a threat to 
shoot me. At once I wheel round - only to behold a crowd of 
bland faces, for the young fanatic (I guess his youth by the 
sound of his voice) has disappeared around a corner into the 
darkness. And so I gaze with pity upon this ragged procession 
which now disappears down the road. Politics, that deceptive 
siren who promises everybody everything, has gathered a few 
more victims into her insidious arms. 

I come at last to a street where the houses are large and well 
built and where the compounds are spacious and trimly kept. 
I quicken my pace until I reach a gate, upon whose post the 
name VISHUDHANANDA is inscribed on a stone tablet. I 
enter the compound, for this is the house which I seek, and 
approach someone who lounges on the veranda. He is a young 
man with an unintelligent face. I ask him in Hindustani: 
"Where is the teacher?" but he shakes his head and gives me 
to understand that no such person is known here. I utter the 
teacher's name, but again receive a negative reply. The result 
is disappointing, but I am determined not to be beaten. An 
inward monitor warns me that the young man thinks no 
European can possibly have any business here, and that he has 
jumped to the conclusion I am really seeking some other house. 
I look again at his face and write him down as stupid. Ignoring 
his gesticulations, I walk straight into the house. 


In an inner room I come upon a semicircle of dark faces. 
A group of well-dressed Indians squat around the floor. A 
bearded old man reclines upon a couch at the far end of the 
room. His venerable appearance and seat of honour are enough 
to inform me that here is the object of my quest. I raise my 
hands in salutation, palms touching. 

"Peace, master!" I make the conventional Hindustani 

I proffer my introduction and present myself as a writer 
travelling in India, yet withal a student of their native philo- 
sophy and mysticism. I make it clear that the disciple whom I 
encountered was careful to explain that his teacher never made a 
public exhibition of his wonderful powers, and that even under 
the shadow of privacy he rarely displayed them to strangers. 
Nevertheless, in view of my deep interest in their ancient wis- 
dom, I crave their indulgence and beg to be treated as an 

The students stare blankly at each other and then turn 
towards the teacher, as if in wonderment at his response. 
Vishudhananda is a man of more than seventy years of age, I 
judge. A short nose and a long beard adorn his face. I am 
struck by the large size of his eyes, which are deeply pouched. 
The sacred thread of a Brahmin hangs around his neck. 

The old man fixes his eyes coldly upon me, as though I were a 
specimen to be studied under a microscope. I feel something 
weird and uncanny touch my heart. Indeed, some strange 
force seems to pervade the whole room, and I feel slightly 

At length he addresses some words, in a dialect which I 
recognize as Bengalee, to a disciple, who turns and informs me 
that no audience can be granted unless I bring Pundit Kavirj, 
who is Principal of the Government Sanskrit College, to act as 
interpreter. The pundit's perfect knowledge of English, com- 
bined with his long standing as a disciple of Vishudhananda, 
perfectly fits him to act as a medium between us. 

"Come with him to-morrow afternoon," says the teacher. 
"I shall expect you at the hour of four." 

I am forced to retreat. On the road I hail a passing carriage 
and drive through the winding streets to the Sanskrit College. 
The Principal is not there. Someone thinks he may be at 
home, so I drive on for another half-hour until I find him at 
last in a tall, ancient house with a projecting upper storey, 
whose appearance is strangely like that of a medieval Italian 


The pundit sits on the floor of a top room, surrounded on 
every side by small hills of books, papers and scholastic para- 
phernalia. He has the Brahmin's typical high brow, thin long 
nose and lighter complexion. His face is refined and scholarly. 
I explain my errand; there is a slight hesitation on his part; 
and then he agrees to accompany me next day. The appoint- 
ment fixed, I withdraw. 

I ride down to the Ganges and dismiss the carriage. I 
saunter along the river bank which, for the benefit of bathing 
pilgrims, is built into long rows of stone steps. The feet of 
many centuries have worn down the steps until they are rugged 
and uneven. How untidy and irregular is the water-front of 
Benares! Temples tumble into the water; glistening domes 
are neighbours to squat, square, decorated palaces which rise 
to varying heights; while the whole hotch-potch of buildings 
mingles the ancient and the modern indiscriminately. 

Priests and pilgrims swarm everywhere. I come across some 
pundits teaching their pupils in small, open rooms. The walls 
are plainly whitewashed; the teachers sit on rugs; and the 
pupils squat respectfully around, absorbing the cobwebbed 
doctrines of their creed. 

A bearded ascetic's appearance causes me to make enquiries. 
He has rolled over and over in the dust for four hundred miles. 
A strange way to make one's pilgrimage to Benares! Farther 
on I meet another weird-looking individual. He has held one 
arm aloft for years. The sinews and ligaments of his unfor- 
tunate limb have almost withered, while the flesh which covers 
it has shrivelled to parchment. How account for such futile 
austerities, unless, indeed, the unending tropical sun has made 
the minds of these men a trifle mad? It may be that existence 
in a temperature of one hundred and twenty degrees in the 
shade has helped to unbalance these unfortunate members of 
a race which is already so prone to religious hysteria. 


The next day, precisely at four o'clock, Pundit Kavirj and I 
drive into the courtyard of the teacher's house. We enter the 
large room and greet him. About six other disciples are 

Vishudhananda asks me to come a little closer, so I squat 
down a few feet away from his couch. 


"Do you desire to see one of my wonders?" is his first 

"If the master wishes to grant this favour, I shall be 
extremely pleased." 

"Give me your handkerchief, then. If you have a silk one, 
so much the better," translates the Pundit. "Any scent which 
you desire will be created for you, with nothing but a lens and 
the sun's rays as equipment." 

Fortunately I do carry a silk handkerchief and pass it to the 
wonder-worker. He takes out a small burning lens and then 
explains that he wishes to concentrate the sun's rays but, owing 
to the orb's present position and the sheltered aspect of the 
room, that cannot be done with directness. The difficulty will 
easily be overcome, however, by sending one of the disciples 
outside into the courtyard. The man will use a hand mirror, 
catch the rays, and then reflect them through an open window 
into the room. 

"I shall now create a scent for you out of the air!" 
announces Vishudhananda. "Which would you like?" 

"Can you produce white jasmine? " 

He takes up my handkerchief in his left hand and holds the 
burning lens above it. For the brief space of two seconds, 
a gleaming ray of sunlight hovers upon the silken fabric; 
then he puts down the lens and hands back the handkerchief. 
I put it to my nose, and am rewarded with the delightful frag- 
rance of white jasmine! 

I examine the handkerchief but can discover no trace of 
moisture, no evidence that some liquid perfume has been 
dropped on it. I am puzzled and look half-suspiciously at the 
old man. He offers to repeat the demonstration. 

The second time I choose attar of roses. I watch him 
narrowly during the further experiment. Every move which he 
makes, every bit of space around him is scrutinized with all the 
care I can muster. I examine his puffy hands and his spotless 
white robe with critical eyes, but can detect nothing suspicious. 
He repeats his former procedure and evokes the perfume of 
attar of roses, which strongly impregnates another corner 
of the handkerchief. 

My third choice is violets. Here again he is equally successful. 

Vishudhananda is quite emotionless about his triumph. 
He treats the whole demonstration as a sort of everyday affair, 
as a mere minor event. His grave face never once relaxes. 

"And now I shall choose the scent," he unexpectedly 
declares. "I shall create the perfume of a flower which grows 


only in Tibet." He concentrates some sunlight upon the last, 
unscented corner of the handkerchief and lo! it is done he 
has evoked a fourth perfume, which I fail to recognize. 

Slightly bewildered, I put the piece of white silk into my 
pocket. The feat appears to border on the miraculous. Has 
he concealed the perfumes upon his person? Has he hidden 
them in his robe? Then he would need to carry a formidable 
stock because, until I spoke, he could not know which scent 
I should choose. His simple robe could hardly contain such 
an ample stock as would be requisite. Besides, not once has 
his hand disappeared into the folds of his robe. 

I ask for permission to inspect the lens. The latter proves to 
be quite an ordinary magnifying glass, set in a wire frame with 
a small wire handle. I can see nothing suspicious about it. 

There is an additional safeguard, for what it is worth, in the 
fact that Vishudhananda is being watched, not only by me 
but also by the half-dozen disciples around us. The Pundit 
has already informed me that, without a single exception, they 
are all men of high standing, good education and responsibility. 

Hypnotism offers a possible explanation. The value of this 
explanation can be simply tested. When I return to my 
quarters, I shall show the handkerchief to other persons. 

Vishudhananda has another and greater piece of wonder- 
working to show me. It is one he seldom performs, though. 
He tells me that he needs strong sunlight for this second feat; 
now, the sun is sinking and evening is approaching. So I am 
to come again at high noon of a later day of the week. He will 
then display his amazing feat of temporarily restoring life to 
the dead! 

I leave him and drive home, where I show the handkerchief 
to three persons. Each one finds that it still bears strong traces 
of the perfumes. The feat, therefore, cannot be accounted for 
on the hypothesis of hypnotism. Nor is it much easier to 
regard the whole affair as a piece of trickery. 


Once again I am in the house of the magician. The latter 
tells me that he can restore life only to a small animal; usually 
he experiments with a bird. 

A sparrow is strangled and left exposed to our gaze for about 
an hour, so that we can assure ourselves that it is really dead. 
Its eyes are motionless, its body sad and stiff; I cannot discover 


a single sign which might betray the presence of life in the little 

The magician picks up his magnifying glass and concentrates 
a ray of sunlight into an eye of the bird. I wait while a few 
minutes pass uneventfully. The old man sits bent over his 
strange task, his large eyes fixed in a glassy stare, his face cold, 
emotionless and non-committal. Suddenly, his lips open and 
his voice breaks out into a weird, crooning chant in some 
language which is unknown to me. A little later the bird's 
body begins to twitch. I have seen a dog twitch its suffering 
frame in the same manner, when the spasms of approaching 
death have overtaken it. Then comes a slight fluttering of the 
feathers and within a few minutes the sparrow is on its legs, 
hopping around the floor. Truly the dead have come to life! 

During its next phase of this strange existence, the bird 
gathers sufficient strength to fly up into the air, where it busies 
itself for a while in finding new perching points as it flies 
around the room. The thing seems so incredible that I pull 
body and wits together, in an effort to reassure myself that 
everything and everyone surrounding me is real, tangible and 
not hallucinatory. 

A tense half-hour passes, while I watch the fluttering efforts 
of the revived creature. At last a sudden climax provides me 
with a fresh surprise. The poor sparrow falls through the air 
and lies motionless at our feet. It remains there without 
stirring. An examination reveals it as breathless and quite 

"Could you have prolonged its life still further?" I ask 
the magician. 

"That is the most I can show you at present," he replies, 
with a slight shrug. The Pundit whispers that greater things 
are hoped for from future experiments. There are other things 
his master can do, though I must not over-use his indulgence 
and make him play the part of a street showman. What I have 
seen already must satisfy me. I feel once again the pervading 
sense of mystery which fills the place. The stories of Vishud- 
hananda's other powers only heighten this feeling. 

I learn that he can bring fresh grapes seemingly out of the 
air and deliver sweetmeats out of sheer nothingness; that if 
he takes a faded flower in his hand it will soon regain its pristine 



What is the secret of these apparent miracles? I try to 
elicit some hint and receive an extraordinary reply. It is one 
of those explanations which do not really explain. The real 
secret still remains hidden behind the square forehead of the 
Benares wonder-worker, and he has so far not revealed it 
even to his closest disciple. 

He tells me that his birthplace was in Bengal. At the age 
of thirteen he was bitten by a poisonous animal. His condition 
became so serious that his mother despaired of his life and took 
him down to the Ganges to die. According to the Hindu 
religion, there can be no holier or happier death than beside 
this river. He was carried into the sacred stream while the 
mourning family gathered on the banks for the funeral cere- 
monies. He was lowered into the water. And then a miracle 
happened. The deeper they dipped him, the more the water 
sank around his body. When he was raised again, the water rose 
upward in harmony until it reached its normal level. Again 
and again he was dipped; again and again the waters sank of 
their own accord. In short, the Ganges refused to receive the 
boy as its dying guest! 

A Yogi sat on the banks of the river and watched the pro- 
ceedings. He got up and predicted that the boy was reserved 
to live and achieve greatness, and that his destiny was most 
fortunate, inasmuch as he would become a famous Yogi. 
The man then rubbed some herbs on the poisoned wound and 
went away. Seven days later he returned and told the parents 
that the boy was now quite cured, and indeed it was so. But, 
during the interim a strange thing had happened to the child. 
His entire mentality and character had changed, and instead 
of being content to remain at home with his parents, he thirsted 
to become a wandering Yogi. Henceforth he worried his 
mother constantly until, a few years later, she granted him 
permission to leave home. He went forth in quest of the Yoga 

He made his way to Tibet, that trans-Himalayan land of 
mystery, in the hope of finding his destined teacher among its 
reputed miracle-working hermits. For it is an idea strongly 
inherent in the Indian mind that the aspirant must become a 
personal disciple of someone who has himself mastered the 
mysteries of Yoga, if he is to succeed in the same quest. The 
young Bengalee sought for such a man among the solitary 


hermits who dwell in huts or caves, sometimes when the 
mountains were swept by howling, icy blizzards, but he 
returned home disappointed. 

Years passed uneventfully, yet his desire found no abate- 
ment. Once more he crossed the border and wandered the 
bleak wastes of Southern Tibet. In a simple habitation among 
the mountain fastnesses he discovered a man who proved 
to be the long-sought teacher. 

I hear, next, one of those incredible statements which might 
once have moved me to satiric laughter, but now actually 
startles me. For I am solemnly assured that this Tibetan 
master is no less than one thousand two hundred years old! 
The assertion is made as calmly as a prosaic Westerner might 
mention that he is forty. 

This amazing legend of longevity has cropped up at least 
twice before. Brama, the Yogi of the Adyar river, once told me 
that his master in Nepal was over four hundred years old, 
while a holy man whom I encountered in Western India said 
that there was a Yogi living in an almost inaccessible mountain 
cave on the Himalayas who was so old - over one thousand years, 
was the figure given me - that the lids of his eyes actually 
drooped heavily with age ! I had dismissed both these asser- 
tions as being too fantastic, but now I must again entertain 
a repetition of them, for this man before me hints at being on 
the track of the elixir of life. 

The Tibetan teacher initiated young Vishudhananda into the 
principles and practices of the Yoga of Body Control. Under 
this rigorous training, the disciple developed powers of body and 
mind which were supernormal. He was also initiated into a 
strange art which he calls Solar Science. For twelve years, 
despite the hardships of life in a snow-bound region, he 
continued his pupilage at the feet of the Tibetan possessor of 
immortal life. His training finished, he was sent back to 
India. He crossed the mountain passes, descended into the 
plains, and in due course himself became a teacher of Yoga. 
He settled for a while at Puri, on the Bay of Bengal, where he 
still maintains a large bungalow. The flock of disciples which 
gathered around him belong exclusively to the higher class of 
Hindus. They comprise wealthy merchants, rich landowners, 
Government officials and even a Rajah. I get the impression 
- perhaps I am wrong - that humbler folk are not encouraged. 
How did you perform those wonders you showed me?" 
I ask bluntly. 

Vishudhananda crosses his plump hands. 


"What you have been shown is not the result of Yoga 
practice. It is the result of a knowledge of Solar Science. 
The essence of Yoga is the development of will power and 
mental concentration on the part of the Yogi, but in Solar 
Science practice those qualities are not required. Solar 
Science is merely a collection of secrets and no special training 
is necessary to make use of them. It can be studied in exactly 
the same way that any of your Western material sciences are 

Pundit Kavirj supplements the hint that this strange art is 
more akin to the science of electricity and magnetism than to 
any other. 

I feel as much in the dark as before, so the master vouch- 
safes some further information. 

"This Solar Science which now comes from Tibet is nothing 
new. It was well known to the great Yogis of India in very 
ancient times. But now, except for a rare few, it has almost 
been lost to this country. There are life-giving elements in 
the sun's rays, and if you knew the secret of separating or 
selecting those elements, you, too, could do wonders. And 
there are etheric forces in sunlight which have a magic power, 
once you get control of them." 

"Are you teaching these Solar Science secrets to your 

"Not yet, but I am preparing to do so. Certain disciples 
will be selected and the secrets imparted to them. Even now 
we are building a large laboratory where study classes, demon- 
strations and experiments will be carried on." 

"Then what are your disciples learning at present?" 
"They are being initiated into Yoga." 
The pundit takes me to inspect the laboratory. It is a 
modern structure several storeys high and distinctly European 
in design. The walls are built of red brick and large gaps take 
the place of windows. These gaps await the coming of huge 
sheets of plate glass, for the research work to be conducted 
in the laboratory will involve the reflection of sunlight through 
red, blue, green, yellow and colourless glass. 

The pundit tells me that no Indian works can make glass of 
the size required to form the giant windows, and therefore the 
edifice cannot be completed. He asks me to make enquiries 
in England, but emphasizes that Vishudhananda wants his 
specifications to be adhered to completely. These include the 
condition that the makers should guarantee their glass to be 
absolutely free from air bubbles, and that the coloured glass 


should be quite transparent. Each sheet is to measure 
twelve feet in length, eight feet in width and one inch in 
thickness. 1 

The laboratory building is surrounded by spacious gardens, 
which are girdled and screened from prying eyes by rows of 
feather-branched palm trees. 

I return to the wonder-worker and sit down before him. The 
disciples have thinned out; only two or three are left. Pundit 
Kavirj squats beside me, his study-worn face fixed in devoted 
regard of his master. 

Vishudhananda momentarily glances at me and then studies 
the floor. Dignity and reserve mingle in his manner; his 
face is preternaturally solemn, and the faces of his disciples 
reflect his solemnity. I attempt to penetrate behind his mask 
of gravity, but can perceive nothing. The mind of this man 
is as impenetrable to my Western mentality as is the inmost 
shrine of the Golden Temple in yonder town. He is steeped 
in the strange lore of Oriental magic. I feel strongly that 
though he has shown me his wonders even before I express 
a second request, nevertheless he has put up a psychic barrier 
between us which I shall never cross. My welcome is but 
a surface one; Western investigators and Western disciples 
are not wanted here. 

He drops an unexpected remark quite suddenly. 

"I could not initiate you as my own pupil unless I secure 
permission beforehand from my Tibetan master. This is a 
condition under which I have to work." 

Has he read the thoughts which run through my brain? 
I gaze at him. His slightly bulging forehead betrays a faint 
pucker. Anyway, I have expressed no desire to become his 
disciple. I am in no undue hurry to become anyone's disciple. 
But of one thing I feel sure - such a request would bring forth 
a negative answer. 

"But how can you communicate with your master if he is 
in far-off Tibet?" I query. 

1 I wrote to the largest manufacturers of plate glass in Great 
Britain, but they refused to undertake the task because the technical 
conditions laid down by Vishudhananda were impossible of fulfilment. 
They declared that it was beyond the wit of any manufacturer to 
devise a process which would guarantee the absence of any air bubbles 
in the sheets; that the glass could not be coloured without diminishing 
its transparency to the sun's rays; that plate glass could not be made 
satisfactorily thicker than one quarter of an inch; and that the sheets 
would have to be made in halves if breakage on the long journey to 
Benares was to be avoided. 


"We are in perfect touch upon the inner planes," he replies. 
I am conscious of listening, but not of comprehending. Yet 
his unexpected remark has turned my mind away from his 
miracles for a while. I fall into a pensive mood. Unwittingly 
I find myself asking: 

"Master, how can one find enlightenment?" 

Vishudhananda does not reply; instead, he puts me another 

"Unless you practise Yoga, how can you obtain enlighten- 

I think the matter over for a few seconds. 

"Yet I am told that without a teacher it is extremely 
difficult to understand Yoga, let alone practise it successfully. 
Genuine teachers are hard to find." 

His face remains indifferent and imperturbable. 

"When the seeker is ready, the master always appears." 

I express my doubts. He spreads out a plump hand. 

"A man must first make himself ready; then, no matter 
where he is, he will eventually find a teacher. And if the 
master does not come in the flesh, he will appear to the inward 
eye of the seeker." 

"How shall one begin, then?" 

"Mark off a part of your time every day to sit in the simple 
posture which I shall show you. That will help to prepare 
you. Take care also to curb anger and control passion." 

Vishudhananda proceeds to show me the Lotus posture, 
with which I am already familiar. Why he calls this a simple 
posture, with its intertwined and folded legs, I cannot under- 

"What adult European can achieve such a contortion!" 
I exclaim. 

"The difficulty lies only in the early attempts. It becomes 
easy if practised every morning and evening. The important 
thing is to fix an exact time of the day for this Yoga practice, 
and to keep regularly to that time. At first five minutes' 
effort is enough. After one month, you can lengthen the time 
to ten minutes; after three months, to twenty minutes, and 
so on. Take care to keep the spine straight. This exercise 
will enable a man to acquire physical poise and mental calmness. 
Calmness is necessary for the further practice of Yoga." 

"Then you teach the Yoga of Body Control?" 

"Yes. Do not imagine that the Yoga of Mind Control is 
superior to it. Just as every human being both thinks and 
acts, so there must be training for both sides of our nature. 


The body acts on the mind, and the mind inter-acts on the 
body; they cannot be separated in practical development." 

I become aware once again of an inner reluctance on the 
part of this man to submit to further questioning. A mental 
coldness fills the atmosphere. I decide to withdraw soon, but 
fling a last question at him. 

"Have you discovered whether there is any goal, any 
purpose, in life?" 

The disciples break their gravity and smile at my simplicity. 
Only an infidel, ignorant Westerner could ask such a question. 
Do not all the sacred Hindu books, without exception, indicate 
that God holds this world in His hand for His own purpose? 

The teacher does not answer me. He relapses into silence, 
but glances at Kaviraj, who thereupon supplies the answer. 

"Certainly, there is a purpose. We have to attain spiritual 
perfection, to unite with God." 

And then, for the next hour, the room remains silent. 
Vishudhananda fingers the large pages of a thick book, whose 
paper cover is printed in Bengalee. The disciples stare, sleep 
or meditate. A soothing, mesmeric influence begins to steal 
over me. I feel that if I stay long enough, I shall either fall 
asleep or fall into some kind of a trance, so I pull my faculties 
together, thank the teacher, and take my departure. 


After a light meal I pick my way through tortuous alleys in 
this motley city, which seems to attract saints and sinners alike. 
It lures the pious from all over the land into its crowded homes, 
but it also draws the impious, the ruffianly and the vicious, to 
say nothing of the priestly parasites. 

The jingling temple bells along the bank of the Ganges 
peal out their call to evening worship. Night is advancing 
rapidly on the greying sky. Sunset adds another to its own 
sounds, for the muezzins call to the followers of the Prophet 
to come to prayer. 

I sit on the bank of this ancient river, this much-revered 
Ganges, and listen to the rustling fronds of palms, which sway 
slightly in the temporary breeze. 

An ash-besmeared beggar approaches me. He halts and I 
gaze at him. He is some sort of holy man, for something that 
is not of this world glows in his eyes. I begin to realize that I 
have not succeeded in understanding this old India so well as 


I thought. I grope among the few coins in my pocket, wonder- 
ing the while whether we can leap across the abyss of civilization 
which separates us. He takes the alms with a quiet dignity, 
raises his hands to his ash-covered brow in salutation, and 

I have mused for long over the mystery of the wonder- 
worker, who plays tricks with the ether and restores fleeting 
life to dead birds. His plausible but brief exposition of Solar 
Science does not capture me. Only a thoughtless man would 
deny that modern science has not fully explored the possibilities 
latent in the sun's light; but there are features in this case 
which incline me to look elsewhere for an explanation. 

For, in Western India, I had learnt of the existence of two 
Yogis who could perform one of Vishudhananda's feats, 
namely, the extraction of different scents from the air. Un- 
fortunately for my investigation, both these persons died 
towards the close of last century, but the source of my informa- 
tion seemed reliable enough. In both cases a fragrant, oily 
essence was made to appear on the palm of the Yogi's hand, 
as though it exuded through the skin. Sometimes the perfume 
was strong enough to scent the room. 

Now, if Vishudhananda possesses the same strange gift, 
he can easily transfer some scent from his palm to the handker- 
chief, whilst appearing to fumble with the magnifying lens. 
In short, the whole performance of concentrating the sunlight 
may be nothing more than a piece of play-acting to cover the 
transference of the magically produced scent. Another point 
which favours this view is the fact that the wonder-worker has 
failed to reveal the secret to a single one of his disciples so 
far. Their hopes have been kept up, meanwhile, by the 
protracted building of costly laboratories. Even this work has 
come to a standstill because of the impossibility of procuring 
the giant sheets of glass in India. And so they wait on and 

What process has Vishudhananda really used, if the con- 
centration of sunlight is merely a blind? It may be that the 
production of fragrant odours is another of the Yoga powers 
which can be developed by personal effort, but I do not know. 
Nevertheless, though I cannot provide a tenable theory to 
account for the wonder-worker's feats, I need not jump at 
the theory of Solar Science which he offers. Why trouble my 
head further My duty is but to play the scribe and record 
these happenings, not to explain the inexplicable. Here is 
a side of Indian life which must remain sealed, for even if the 


plump little wonder-worker, or some chosen disciple, demon- 
strates this strange art to the outside world and engages the 
astounded attention of scientists, it is unlikely that the secret 
will be made known. I think I have read so far into his 
character, at least. 

An inner voice asks me: How has he revived the dead bird 
And what about this legend of a perfected Yogi's ability to 
extend indefinitely the duration of his life? Have some 
Eastern men really discovered the secret of protracted age? 

I turn my head away from the inner questioner and wearily 
look up at the heavens. The imponderable immensity of the 
star-filled sky awes me. Nowhere are the stars so bright as 
in the tropical sky. I continue to gaze fixedly at the twinkling 
points of light. . . . When I look around again at my fellow- 
creatures and at the amorphous mass of houses, I begin to feel 
deeply the recondite mystery of this world. Tangible things 
and ordinary objects recede quickly into unreality, and the 
blend of shadowy, moving figures, slowly gliding boats and 
a few bright lamps, turn both night and environment into 
some enchanted land of the dream world. The old Indian 
philosophical doctrine that the universe is but phantom-like 
in its real nature drifts into my mind and begins to abet this 
destruction of my sense of reality. I become ready for the 
strangest experiences that this planet, which hurries so swiftly 
through the abysses of space, can bring me. 

But some creature of the earth world breaks rudely into my 
heavenly dream by giving loud voice to the monotonous 
rhythm of an Indian song, and I return rapidly to that pot- 
pourri of uncertain pleasures and unexpected sorrows which 
men call life. 



TiE cupolas quiver with light in the dazzling sunshine, 
the bathers fill the air with the sounds of their 
matutinal ablution, and the jumbled, Oriental pageant 
of the water-front at Benares shows itself anew to my alien 
gaze. I idle down the Ganges in a heavy junk, whose prow 
is carved like a cobra's head. I sit on the roof of a cabin, 
while the three rowers who are below pull their quaint oars. 

A merchant from Bombay is my companion and, as he sits 
next to me, he tells me that he intends to retire from trade 
when he returns to that city. He is an extremely pious but 
equally practical man. While laying up treasure in heaven, 
he has not omitted to lay up treasure in the bank. I have 
known him for about a week and find him an amiable, genial 
and friendly person. 

"lam retiring at the very age which Sudhei Babu predicted 
it would happen," he says, eager to explain. 

This odd remark causes me, metaphorically, to prick up 
my ears. 

"Sudhei Babu - who is he? " 

"Do you not know? He is the cleverest astrologer in 

"Oh, just an astrologer!" I grunt back a little scornfully. 

For I have seen the breed squatting in the dust of Bombay's 
great open space, the Maidan sitting in sultry booths at 
Calcutta; and foregathering wherever travellers pass through 
every little town I have visited. Most of them are dirty-looking 
creatures, with wild locks of unkempt hair. The recognizable 
print of superstition and ignorance rests upon their faces. 
Their stock-in-trade usually consists of two or three greasy, 
well-fingered books and some vernacular almanac filled with 
incomprehensible signs. I have often cynically thought of 
their eagerness to direct the fortunes of other persons, 
when they themselves seemed outside the pale of good 



"lam somewhat surprised at you. Is it safe for a business 
man to trust himself to the twinkling of the stars. Don't you 
think common sense is a better guide?" I add, in the tone of 
one giving good advice. 

The other man half-shakes his head and smiles tolerantly at 

"How, then, do you explain the prediction of my retirement? 
Who could have guessed that I would give up trade at such an 
exceptionally early age, for as you know I am only a year past 

"Coincidence, perhaps." 

"Very well; let me tell you a little story. Some years ago I 
met a great astrologer in Lahore and started a large business 
negotiation on his advice. At that time I was in partnership 
with an older man. My partner asserted that the affair was far 
too risky and he refused to agree with me. Because he would 
not enter into the transaction we dissolved partnership. I 
carried the business through alone. It was a startling success 
and brought me a small fortune. Yet unless the Lahore 
astrologer had strongly supported me, I, too, would have 
feared to enter into the affair." 

"Then you hold the opinion that " 

My companion finishes the sentence for me. 

"Our lives are ruled by destiny and that destiny is shown by 
the positions of the stars!" 

I slip my objections to his statement upon the thread of an 
impatient gesture. 

"The astrologers I have seen in India are such an illiterate, 
stupid-looking lot, that I cannot imagine what beneficial 
advice they can give anyone." 

"Ah, you must not confuse a learned scholar like Sudhei 
Babu with those ignorant men you have encountered. Truly, 
those men are charlatans, but he is a highly intelligent Brahmin 
who lives in a large house of his own. He has made a deep 
study of the subject for many years and possesses many volumes 
of great rarity." 

It suddenly occurs to me that my companion is no fool. He 
belongs to that type of modern Hindu who is enthusiastically 
practical and who does not hesitate to avail himself of the latest 
resources of Western invention. He is even ahead of me in 
some ways. He carries a magnificent moving-picture camera 
on the boat, whereas I can boast of nothing better than a 
humble pocket Kodak; his servant produces a thermos flask 
and pours out a cooling drink, thus rebuking my lamentable 


forgetfulness of an excellent travelling requisite; and I know 
from his talk that he makes more use of the telephone when in 
Bombay than I have ever cared to do when in Europe. And 
yet he believes in astrology! I puzzle over the incongruous 
elements which compose his character. 

"Let us understand each other. You fully accept the theory 
that every man's career and every worldly event is controlled 
by stars whose distance from our planet is so great that it 
beggars imagination?" 

"Yes, I do, "he answers quietly. 

I shrug my shoulders, not knowing what to say. 

He assumes an apologetic air. 

"My dear sir, why not go and try him for yourself? You 
say in your country, 'The proof of the pudding is in the eating.' 
Find out what Sudhei Babu can discover about you. I have no 
use for the cheap charlatans myself, but I believe in that man's 

"H'm. I am sceptical about those who make a business of 
foretelling. Still, I shall take you at your word. Will you take 
me to this astrologer?" 

"Certainly. Come and have tiffin 1 with me to-morrow and 
then we shall visit him." 

We continue to float by broad palaces and old temples and 
little shrines bespattered with yellow flowers. I look indiffer- 
ently at the broad stone steps crowded with bathing pilgrims 
and reflect that, though science rightly flatters itself with having 
put a check to superstition, I have yet to learn that a scientific 
attitude should put a check to investigation. If my companion 
can produce some evidential facts for the marked feeling of 
fatalism which he shares in common with most of his country- 
men, I shall study them with an open mind. 


The next day my amiable acquaintance brings me to a narrow, 
archaic street which runs through a heap of flat-topped houses. 
We stop before a rambling, old, stone-built structure. He 
leads the way through a dark, low-roofed passage and then we 
climb several stone steps, which are no wider than a man's 
body. We pass through a narrow room and find ourselves on 
the veranda of a spacious inner courtyard, around which the 
house has been built. 

1 Light afternoon tea. 


A chained dog sights us and furiously barks a challenge. An 
array of large pots, each holding some tropical flowerless 
plant, spreads along the veranda. I follow my companion into a 
dark, frowning room and nearly fall over some broken flag- 
stones at the threshold. As I stoop, I notice that loose earth 
lies sprinkled in the room as freely as it is sprinkled on the 
veranda floor. Does the astrologer find relief from his starry 
studies in plant-growing, I wonder? 

The other man shouts for the astrologer, whose name is 
echoed back to us by the ancient walls. We wait for two or 
three minutes and assist the dog, by further calls for the astrol- 
oger, to punctuate the silence of this seemingly deserted 
building. I begin to think that we have come on a fruitless 
errand, when the sound of someone stirring descends from an 
upper floor. Soon after I hear shuffling steps approach our room. 

The figure of a slight man, carrying a candle in one hand and 
jangling a bunch of keys in the other, appears on the threshold. 
There follows a brief conversation in the semi-gloom and the 
astrologer unlocks another door, through which we all pass. He 
draws aside two heavy curtains and opens the shutters which 
cover tall balcony windows. 

The astrologer's face is suddenly illuminated by the light 
which falls through the opened windows. I see a man who 
seems more like a figure from the ghost world than one of flesh 
and blood. Never before have I seen anyone so "sicklied o'er 
with the pale cast of thought." His death-like countenance, 
incredibly lean body and Unearthly slow movements combine 
to produce a weird effect. The whites of his eyes are so pro- 
nounced as to heighten this impression, their whiteness offering 
a strong contrast to the jet-black pupils. 

He takes his seat at a large table, whose surface is littered 
with papers. I discover that he speaks tolerably good English, 
yet it is only after some persuasion that I can induce him to 
carry on a direct conversation without the aid of a third party 
as interpreter. 

"Please understand that I come as an enquirer, not as a 
believer," I begin. 

He nods his thin head. 

"Yes, I shall cast your horoscope and then you must tell me 
if you are satisfied." 

"What is your fee?" 

"I have no fixed charge. Some people of good position pay 
me sixty rupees; others pay me twenty rupees. I leave the 
amount to you." 


I proceed to make it clear to him that, before we bother about 
the future, I want to test his knowledge of the past. He 

For a while he busies himself with calculations over my birth 
date. After ten minutes he stoops to the floor behind his chair 
and searches among a disorderly pile of yellowed papers and 
palm-leaf manuscripts. Finally he draws out a little bundle of 
oblong, time-stained slips. He sketches a queer diagram on a 
sheet of paper and says: 

"This is a chart of the heavens at the time you were born. 
And these Sanskrit texts explain the meaning of every part of 
the chart. Now, I shall tell you what the stars declare." 

He scrutinizes the diagram with minute care, refers to one of 
the slips, and speaks again, in that low, emotionless voice which 
befits his personality so well. 

"You are a writer from the West? Am I correct?" 

I nod in agreement. 

He tells me thereafter about my youth and describes, in 
quick succession, a few happenings of the earlier years of my 
life. In all, he gives me seven important points about my past. 
Five of them are broadly correct, but the other two are utterly 
wrong. Thus I am able to check up on the value or worthless- 
ness of his powers. The honesty of the man is transparent. I 
am already convinced that he is incapable of deliberate decep- 
tion. A 75 per cent success in an initial test is startling enough 
to show that Hindu astrology calls for investigation, but it also 
indicates that the latter is no precise, infallible science. 

Once again Sudhei Babu burrows among his scattered papers 
and then describes my character with a fair degree of accuracy. 
After that he pictures the mental capacities which have brought 
me to follow a profession congenial to them. Here again, when 
he lifts his intellectual head and asks, "Have I read correctly?" 
I cannot dispute his words. 

He shuffles his papers, silently studies the diagram, and 
begins to speak of the future. 

"The world will become your home. You shall travel far 
and wide, yet always you will carry a pen and do your writing 
work." And in this strain he discourses of what is yet to be. 
But I can run no investigating rule over his prophecies, so I am 
content to leave them where I find them - written in the stars I 1 

1 One of his predictions, which I had instantaneously and scepti- 
cally dismissed as a ridiculous impossibility, has now received ample 
confirmation. But a second event has failed to mature at the date 
he gave for it. The others still wait for time's comment. 


With his last words he again asks if I am satisfied. His 
fairly correct description of my past forty years on this amazing 
planet; his almost completely successful effort to show me my 
mental self - these things silence the criticisms which I have 
come prepared to utter. 

I want to ask myself, "Is this man merely drawing a bow at a 
venture? Is he doing nothing more than a bit of smart guess- 
work?" but I must candidly confess that his prognostications 
impress me. Yet time alone can tell whether there is any worth 
in them or not. 

Is my Western attitude toward the dark question of fate to 
tumble about me like a house of thin cards What can I say 
about the matter? I move over to the window and stand there, 
staring out at the opposite house and jingling the silver rupees 
in my pocket. Finally I return to my seat and question the 

"Why should it seem impossible to you that such distant 
stars can influence the lives of m e n ? " he rejoins softly. "Do 
not the tides respond to the distant moon in their ebb and flow 
Does not the body of a woman undergo a change every lunar 
month? Does not the absence of the sun make men more 
liable to depressed moods?" 

"Quite so. But that is a far cry from asserting the claims of 
astrology. Why should Jupiter or Mars care two annas 
whether I meet with shipwreck or not?" 

He looks at me with an unruffled face. 

"It is better that you regard the planets as being only 
symbols which stand in the sky; it is not they which really 
influence us, but our own past," he replies. "You will never 
understand the reasonable nature of astrology unless you accept 
the doctrine that man is born again and again, and that his fate 
follows him with every birth. If he escapes the results of his 
evil actions in one birth, they will punish him in his next; 
and if he does not receive a due reward for his good actions in 
one lifetime, he will surely receive it in the next. Without this 
doctrine of the continued return of man's soul to this earth 
until such time as it becomes perfect, the changing fortunes of 
different persons would seem the result of mere chance or 
blind luck. How can that be allowed by a just Deity? No - it 
is our belief that when a man dies, his character, desires, 
thoughts and will continue to exist until they enter a body of 
flesh once more and come among us in the form of a new-born 
baby. The good or evil actions committed in the former birth 
will be suitably rewarded or punished in the present or even 


future births. This is how we explain fate. When I said that 
you would be shipwrecked one day and in grave danger of 
drowning, that is the fit destiny which God, in His hidden 
justice, has portioned out to you because of something wrong 
which you did in a former birth. It is not the planets which 
force you into shipwreck, but the inescapable results of your 
former actions. The planets and their positions only act as a 
record of this destiny; why they should do so I cannot say. 
No man's brain could ever have invented astrology; it came 
to us from long ago, when it was revealed for man's benefit by 
the great seers of ancient times." 

As I listen to this plausible pronouncement, I hardly know 
what comment to make. He would bind one's soul and fortune 
to the stake of fate, but no healthy Westerner will let himself 
be despoiled of the prized possession of free will. What 
inhabitant of the energetic Occident can wax enthusiastic 
over this belief that it is destiny, and not choice, which directs 
him to take his steps? I gaze in bewilderment at this lean 
dreamer, this sallow wanderer through remote signs of the 
zodiac. "Do you know," I tell him, "that in some parts of 
the South the astrologers rank next to the priests, and that 
nothing of any magnitude can be done without previously 
consulting them? We Europeans would laugh at such a posi- 
tion, for we do not look kindly upon predictive methods. We 
like to think that we are free individuals and not the hapless 
victims of an inexorable destiny." 

The astrologer shrugs his shoulders. 

"In one of our old books, the Hitopadesa, it is declared: 
'No one is capable of opposing the predestinations of fate, 
which are written on the foreheads of men.' "He lets his 
words sink in. Then he continues: 

"What can you do? We must bear with the fruit of our 

But I am dubious about this statement and express my 

The prophet of personal fortunes rises from his chair. 
I take the hint and prepare to leave him. He murmurs 

"All is in the power of God. Nothing can escape Him. 
Who of us is really free? Whither can we go where God is 

At the door he adds hesitatingly: 

"If you wish to come again we may talk further on these 


I thank him and accept the invitation. 
"Very well. I shall expect you to-morrow, after the sun has 
gone down, about the hour of six." 


Next day I return with the dusk to the astrologer's house. I 
have no intention of accepting all that he tells me, but neither 
have I formed any plans for rejection. I come to listen, possibly 
to learn, though the latter rests on how far his statements can 
be verified by experiment. And at this time I am ready enough 
to make experiments, but only if sufficiently strong reasons 
can be given for them. Yet Sudhei Babu's reading of my horo- 
scope has stirred me to the perception that Hindu astrology 
is not superstitious nonsense, and that it may well warrant 
a deeper investigation. That thought represents the limit of 
my present attitude. 

We sit facing each other at his large writing-table. A 
paraffin lamp throws a dim light upon the scene. Millions 
of other Indian homes are being lit to-night in the same 

"I have fourteen rooms in this house," the astrologer tells 
me. "They are filled with ancient manuscripts, which are 
mostly written in Sanskrit. That explains why I need such 
a large house, although I live alone. Come and see my 

He removes the hanging lamp and leads the way into another 
room. Open boxes are ranged around the walls. I peer inside 
one of them and find it full of books and papers. Even the 
floor of the room is hidden under a multitude of papers, 
bundles of palm-leaf manuscripts and books whose covers are 
discoloured with age. I take a small bundle in my hand; each 
leaf is covered with incomprehensible, faded characters. We 
go from room to room and find the same scene everywhere. 
The astrologer's library appears to be in a state of hopeless 
disorder, but he assures me that he is familiar with the where- 
abouts of every book and paper. It seems to me that his house 
has gathered the wisdom of Hindustan. Surely much of the 
strange lores of India is contained in the almost undecipherable 
pages of these ancient rolls of manuscript and in these Sanskrit 

We return to our chairs and the other man informs 


"Nearly all my money has been spent in buying those 
manuscripts and books. Many of them are very rare and cost 
me large sums. So it is that I am very poor to-day." 

"What subjects do they deal with?" 

"They deal with human life and divine mysteries, while 
many are concerned with astrology." 

"Then you are also a philosopher?" 

His thin mouth relaxes into a half-smile. 

"A man who is not a good philosopher will make a poor 

"If you will pardon me for saying so, I hope you do not 
over-study all those books. I was shocked at your pallor 
when I first met you." 

"That is not surprising," he replies calmly. "I have not 
eaten for six days." 

I express my concern. 

"It is not a question of money. The woman who comes 
every day to cook for me is away ill. She has been away for 
six days." 

"Then why not call in another woman?" 

He shakes his head firmly. 

"No . My food must not be cooked by a lower caste woman. 
I would rather not eat for a month than permit that to happen. 
I must wait till my servant's health is restored. But I expect 
her to return in a day or two." 

I peer at him intently and notice that he wears the sacred 
thread of "The Sons of Brahma." The triple cord of woven 
linen which nestles under his chin is placed around the neck 
of every Brahmin baby and is never to be removed till death. 
So he is a Brahmin. 

"Why trouble yourself with a superstitious caste restric- 
tion," I urge. "Surely your health is more important than 

"It is not superstition. Everyone gives out a magnetic 
influence which is quite real, even though the instruments of 
your Western science have not yet discovered it. The cook 
who prepares food throws her influence into it, unconsciously 
of course. A cook of low character will thus taint the food 
with bad magnetism, which passes into the person who eats 
the food." 

"What a strange theory!" 

"But it is true." 

I change the subject. 

"How long have you been an astrologer?" 


"For nineteen years. I took up the profession after my 

"Ah, I understand." 

"No, I am not a widower. Shall I explain? When I was 
a youth of thirteen I prayed often to God for knowledge, and 
so was led to various people who taught me and to different 
books. I became so fascinated by study that I would sit up 
reading all day and far into the night. My parents arranged 
a marriage for me. A few days after we were married, my 
wife got angry with me and said: 'I have married a human 
book!' On the eighth day she ran away with the man who 
used to drive our carriage!" 

Sudhei Babu pauses. I cannot help smiling at his wife's 
caustic comment, though her speedy elopement must have 
created a sensation in conservative India. But the ways of 
women are tortuous and beyond the compass of a man's mind. 

"After a while I recovered from the shock," he continues, 
"and forgot her. All my emotions were blotted out. I went 
deeper than ever into the study of astrology and the divine 
mysteries. It is then that I took up my greatest study, the book 
of Brahma Chinta." 

"Perhaps you will tell me what that book is concerned 

"The title can be translated as Divine Meditation, or as The 
Quest of Brahma, or even as God-Knowledge. The entire work 
contains several thousand pages, but the part I study is only 
a section. It took me nearly twenty years to collect even that, 
because it exists only in scattered parts here and there. I have 
slowly obtained these different parts through agents in the 
various provinces of India. There are twelve chief divisions 
among its subjects, and many subdivisions. The chief topics 
are philosophy, astrology, Yoga, life after death, and other deep 

"Do you know if there is any English translation of the 

He shakes his head. 

"I have never heard of one. Few, even, are the Hindus who 
know of the existence of the book. Hitherto, it has been 
jealously guarded and kept secret. It came originally from 
Tibet, where it is looked upon as very sacred and only chosen 
students are allowed to study it." 

"When was it written?" 

"It was composed thousands of years ago by the sage 
Bhrigu, who lived so long ago that I cannot give you the date. 


It teaches a method of Yoga which is quite different from all 
others which exist in India. You are interested in Yoga, are 
you not?" 

"How do you know that?" 

For answer, Sudhei Babu quietly produces the chart which 
he has constructed around my birth-date, and moves his 
pencil among the strange glyphs which represent planetary 
configurations and zodiacal signs. 

"Your horoscope surprises me. It is out of the ordinary 
for a European, and not even a common one for an Indian. 
It shows that you will have a great tendency to study Yoga 
and that you will enjoy the favour of sages who will help you to 
delve deeply into the subject. Yet you will not limit yourself 
to Yoga alone, but become versed in other mystic philosophies." 

He pauses and looks at me straight in the eyes. I receive 
the subtle impression that he is about to make a statement 
which will be tantamount to a revelation of his inner life. 

"There are two kinds of sages: those who selfishly keep 
their knowledge to themselves, and those who, after obtaining 
enlightenment, share it freely with others who are seeking for it. 
Your horoscope shows that you are almost at the gate of 
illumination and therefore my words will not fall on deaf ears. 
I am ready to impart my knowledge to you!" 

I am taken aback at this strange turn of affairs. I first come 
to Sudhei Babu to check up on the claims of Indian astrology; 
I come again to listen to his further defence of its basic postulate. 
And now he unexpectedly offers to become my teacher in 

"If you will practise the methods of Brahma Chinta you 
will need no teacher," he continues. "Your own soul will 
become your teacher." 

I suddenly realize my mistake and wonder whether he has 
read my thoughts. 

"You take me by surprise!" is all I can say. 

"I have already instructed a few persons in this knowledge 
but I never regard myself as their master - only as their brother 
or friend. So I do not undertake to become your teacher in 
the ordinary sense. The spirit of the sage Bhrigu will simply 
use this body and mind of mine to communicate his teachings 
to you." 

"I do not understand how you can combine the profession 
of astrology with the teaching of a Yoga system?" " 

His thin hands spread themselves upon the table. 

"The explanation is this. I live in the world and serve it 


through my work, which happens to be astrology. Secondly, 
I refuse to be looked upon as a teacher of Yoga, because 
in our Brahma Chinta the only teacher acknowledged is God. 
He is the only preceptor we acknowledge. He, as the universal 
soul, is in us, and will teach us. Look on me as a brother, if 
you wish, but do not look on me as a spiritual preceptor. 
Those who have a teacher are too apt to lean on him and to 
depend on him instead of their own soul." 

"And yet you depend on astrology for guidance," I retort 
quickly, "instead of your own soul." 

"You are not right. I never look at my own horoscope now 
- in fact, I tore it up many years ago." 

I express astonishment at this statement. He replies : 

"I have found the light and do not need astrology to guide 
me, but those who still walk in darkness find it helpful. I have 
placed my life entirely in the Lord's hands. I carry that act to 
its proper conclusion by giving up all care about future or past. 
Whatever the Lord sends, that I accept as His will. I have 
given my whole self - body, mind, actions and feelings - to the 
will of the Almighty." 

"Suppose you are threatened with death by a murderous 
ruffian, would you do nothing and accept that as God's will?" 

"When any danger arises I know that I have only to pray 
and instantly to receive His protection. Prayer is necessary 
but fear is not. I pray frequently and the Lord has marvellously 
protected me. Yet I have been through great troubles. 
Through all of them I was conscious of His help and I trust 
Him fully under every event. One day you, too, will disregard 
the future and become indifferent to it." 

"There will have to be a remarkable change in me before 
that happens," I observe drily. 

"That change will surely come." 

"Are you certain?" 

"Yes, you cannot escape your destiny. This spiritual rebirth 
is an event which comes from God, whether one looks for it 
or not." 

"You say strange things, Sudhei Babu." 

The idea of Deity is the unknown factor which enters into 
so many of my conversations in this land. The Hindus are 
essentially religious and I am often tantalized by the familiar 
way in which they introduce mention of God. Is it possible 
for them to appreciate the view-point of a doubting Westerner, 
who has surrendered simple faith for complex reason? I 
realize that it will be unavailing and suit no practical purpose 


to throw up this question of Deity into argument with the 
astrologer. I have no taste for partaking of any theological 
diet which he will probably place before me, so I turn the subject 
back to less controversial ground. 

"Let us talk of other matters, for God and I have never 

He looks at me fixedly, his peculiar black and white eyes 
searching my soul. 

"The chart of your horoscope cannot be wrongly drawn or I 
might keep back my knowledge from an unready mind. But 
the stars move without fault; what you are unable to grasp 
to-day will linger in your thoughts for a time and then return 
with double force. I tell you again that I am ready to impart 
the way of Brahma Chinta to you." 

"And I am ready to learn it." 


Evening after evening I visit the old stone house of the 
astrologer and receive my lessons in Brahma Chinta. The 
pale lamplight throws flickering patterns upon his narrow face 
as he initiates me into the arcana of this primitive Tibetan 
Yoga system. 1 At no time does he adopt the attitude of spiritual 
superiority or egoistic tutorship. He is humility personified 
and usually prefaces his instruction with the phrase, "In this 
teaching of Brahma Chinta it is said—" 

"What is the supreme object, the final goal of this Yoga of 
Brahma Chinta?" I ask him one evening. 

"We seek the condition of sacred trance, for in that condition 
man obtains perfect proof that he is a soul. Then it is that he 
frees his mind from his surroundings; objects fade away and 
the outside world seems to disappear. He discovers the soul as 
a living, real being within himself; its bliss, peace and power 
overwhelm him. All he needs is a single experience of this kind 

1 I do not care to commit the details of this system to print, nor 
would Western readers derive any benefit even if I did so. Its 
essence is a series of meditations which aim at creating what the 
tutor described as " the vacuum mind! " There are six different 
paths of practice to be studied, and there are ten stages of attainment 
upon the principal path. It is neither right nor necessary for the 
average European to take up the practice of a method which is fit 
only for jungle retreats or mountain monasteries, and which might 
even prove dangerous. Insanity lies around the corner for Western 
amateurs who dabble in such practices. 


to obtain the proof that there is a divine and undying life in 
himself; never again can he forget it." 

A shred of doubt prompts my enquiry: 

"Are you sure that all this is not a deep form of auto- 

A ghost of a smile curls around his lips. 

"When a mother gives birth to a child, is it possible that she 
can doubt, even for a single moment, what is happening 
And when she comes to look back on that experience, could she 
ever think that it was only an auto-suggestion? And when 
she watches her child grow up beside her year after year, can 
she hesitate at any time and disbelieve in its existence? In the 
same way, the labour of spiritual rebirth comes as such a 
tremendous event in one's life that it cannot be forgotten; it 
changes everything for one. When one enters into the sacred 
trance, a kind of vacuum is created within the mind; God - or, 
as you do not seem to care for that word, the soul, the higher 
power, shall I say, enters and fills that vacuum. When that 
happens, it is impossible to avoid becomng filled with intense 
happiness. One also feels a great love for the whole of creation. 
The body will appear to an observer to be not only in a trance, 
but apparently dead, for all breathing stops when the deepest 
point is attained." 

"Is that not dangerous?" 

"No . The trance is attained in complete solitude or a friend 
may be permitted to watch over one. I frequently enter into 
the sacred trance and can always emerge from it whenever I wish 
I usually stay in it for two or three hours, and fix the time of its 
ending beforehand. It is a wonderful experience because 
what you see as the universe I see again within myself! That 
is why I say that all you need to learn can be learnt from your 
own soul. After I have communicated the complete Yoga of 
Brahma Chinta to you, no master will be necessary; you will 
need no outside guidance." 

"You have never had a teacher yourself?" 

"None. I have never looked for one since I discovered the 
secrets of Brahma Chinta. Nevertheless, some great masters 
have come to me from time to time. This has happened when I 
have entered the sacred trance and become conscious in the 
inner world. These great sages have appeared before me in 
their psychic forms and placed their hands on my head in 
blessing. Therefore I say again, trust the guidance of your own 
soul and teachers will come unbidden to you in the inner 


For the next two minutes there is a brooding silence. The 
other man seems to be caught up in a cloud of thoughts. Then, 
very quietly, very humbly, this strange tutor says: 

"Once, during the sacred trance, I saw Jesus." 

"You mystify me!" I exclaim. 

But he does not hasten to explain. Instead, he suddenly 
rolls the whites of his eyes upwards in a most alarming manner. 
There is another minute of intense silence, and only when he 
brings his eyes back to their normal appearance am I reassured. 

When he addresses me again a faintly enigmatical smile 
hovers once more around his lips. 

"Such is the greatness of this sacred trance that death cannot 
catch a man while he is in it. There are some Yogis on the 
Tibetan side of the Himalayas who have practised to perfection 
this path of Brahma Chinta. Because it pleases them to do so 
they have secluded themselves in mountain caves, where they 
have entered the profoundest degree of the sacred trance. In 
that condition, the pulse stops, the heart no longer beats and 
the blood does not flow through the unmoving body. Anyone 
finding them would think that they are dead. Do not imagine 
that they have gone into a kind of sleep, because they are as 
fully conscious as you or I. They have entered the inner 
world, where they live higher lives. Their minds have become 
released from the limits set by the body and they discover the 
whole universe within themselves. One day they will come out 
of their trance, but then they will be many hundreds of years 

So once again I hear this incredible tradition of perennial 
human life. Apparently it will follow my feet wherever I go 
under this Eastern sun. But shall I ever track down one of 
these legendary immortals and behold him face to face? And 
will the West ever discover and accept, as a scientific and 
psychological contribution, this ancient magic cradled in the 
bleak climate of Tibet? Who knows? 


My last lesson in the fantastic doctrines of the Yoga of 
Brahma Chinta comes to an end. 

I persuade the sedentary astrologer to venture out of his house, 
which he rarely leaves, and give his limbs a little exercise. We 
wander through narrow alleys, in an effort to avoid the packed 
bazaars which bar our way to the river. With all its ancient 


squalor and unhygienic overcrowding, Benares nevertheless 
presents a variety of colourful sights to the man who wanders 
its streets afoot. 

It is afternoon and my companion carries an open, flat 
parasol on his shoulder so as to keep off the sun's rays. His 
frail figure and weary languid movements do not conduce to 
quick progress, and I change our route in order to shorten our 

We pass into the Street of the Brass Workers. The air rings 
with the hammers of bearded craftsmen, and their products, 
shining brazen vessels, gleam in the sunlight. Here, too, are 
multitudes of little brass images - earthly representations of the 
chief gods in the Hindu Pantheon. 

An old man crouches in the shade by the roadside in another 
street. He looks up at me with feeble eyes and pathetic face. 
His fear removed, he begs for alms. 

We drift through the Street of the Merchants of Grain, where 
little wooden platforms exhibit piles of red and golden grains. 
The shopkeepers sit on folded legs or squat on haunch and heel 
beside their goods. They throw a few glances at the odd 
couple that passes by, and then resume their patient waiting for 

Odours mingle indiscriminately in the other streets. As we 
approach the river, we walk right into a region which seems to 
be a hunting ground for those who seek alms. Lean beggars 
drag themselves along the dusty road. One of them comes 
near to me and looks inquiringly into my eyes. He possesses a 
face of unspeakable melancholy. My heart is moved 

Farther on I nearly stumble over a fleshless old woman, whose 
body is a bunch of hanging skin and protruding bones. She, 
too, glances into my eyes. There is no reproach, only dull 
acceptance. I bring out my purse. Immediately she becomes 
an animated creature once again. She extends a skinny arm 
and takes the proffered coins. 

I tremble at my own good fortune in having plenty of food, 
good clothes, proper shelter and other desirable things. When 
I think of the haunting eyes of those unfortunate wretches, I feel 
guilty. By what right do I enjoy the possession of so many 
rupees, so many annas, when those poor beggars own nothing 
more than rags? Suppose, by some accident of birth or fluke 
of fate, I had been born in the place of one of them? I play 
for a while with this ghastly thought, but horror eventually 
causes me to send it into oblivion. 


What is the meaning of this mystery of chance, which, by 
the mere fortune of birth, puts one man in dirt-stained rags 
upon this road and another in silken robes in yonder river-side 
palace? Life is truly a dark enigma; I cannot comprehend it. 

"Let us sit down here," says the astrologer, when we reach 
the Ganges. We sit in the shade and look down the river upon 
the stretch of broad stone steps, rambling terraces and jutting 
platforms. Little groups of pilgrims are constantly coming and 

The shapely forms of two slender minarets soar gracefully 
into the pearly sky to a height of nearly three hundred feet. 
They mark the charming Mosque of Aurungzeeb, that Muham- 
medan anachronism in this most Hindu of Hindu cities. 

But the astrologer has noted my sad preoccupation with 
beggars, for he turns his sallow face towards me and says: 

"India is a poor country." His voice is somewhat apologetic. 
"Its people have been sunk in inertia. The English race 
possesses some fine points and I believe that God brought them 
to our country for its benefit. Before they came life was unsafe; 
law and justice were often set aside. It is my hope that the 
English will not leave India; we need their help, but it should 
be given in friendship now, and not by force. However, the 
destiny of both nations must fulfil itself." 

"Ah, your fatalism returns again!" 

He ignores my comment and falls into silence. At length he 

"How can the two peoples avoid God's will? Day is ever 
followed by night, and night is ever followed by day. So is it 
with the history of nations. Great changes brood over the 
world. India has been sunk in sloth and inertia, but she will 
change until she becomes filled with desires and ambitions, 
which ever precede activity. Europe burns with practical 
activities, but the strength of its materialism will pass away and 
it will turn its face towards higher ideals. It will seek out the 
inner things. And the same will happen to America." 

I listen in silence. 

"For this reason the philosophic and spiritual teachings of 
our land will travel towards the West like a wave of the ocean," 
he continues gravely. "Scholars have already translated some 
of our Sanskrit manuscripts and sacred books into Western 
languages, but many texts are hidden away in cave libraries in 
out of the way parts of India, Nepal and Tibet. Those, too, 
must eventually be made known to the world. The time will 
come before long when the ancient philosophies and inner 


knowledge of India shall unite with the practical sciences of the 
West. The secrecy of past times must give way to the needs 
of this century. I am glad that all this will happen." 

I stare into the greenish water of the Ganges. The river is 
so strangely tranquil that it hardly seems to flow. Its surface 
shimmers in the sunlight. 

He addresses me yet again: 

"The destiny of each race of people must be realized, just as 
the destiny of every person must be fulfilled. The Lord is 
omnipotent. Men and nations cannot escape from their self- 
earned fate, but they may be protected throughout their 
troubles and even saved from great dangers." 

"And how does one obtain such protection?" 

"By prayer, by keeping a child-like nature when one turns 
towards the Almighty, and by remembering Him not on one's 
lips, but in one's heart, especially before one begins any action. 
In happy days try to enjoy them as a blessing of God, and in 
troubles try to think that it is very much like a medicine to heal 
your inner disease. Fear Him not, as He is all merciful." 

"You do not believe that God is remote from this world, 
then? " 

"No . God is a Spirit which is hidden in people and through- 
out this universe. If you see any beauty in Nature, a beautiful 
landscape, for instance, do not worship it for its own sake, but 
remember that it is beautiful because of the Deity present in it. 
See the Divinity in objects and people, and do not be so capti- 
vated by the outer forms that you forget the inner Spirit which 
gives them life." 

"You mingle your doctrines of fate, religion and astrology 
in a peculiar manner, Sudhei Babu." 

He gazes solemnly at me. 

"Why so? These doctrines are not of my creation. They 
have descended to us from the most distant ages of the past. 
The tremendous power of destiny, the worship of our Creator 
and the lore of planetary influences were known to the earliest 
peoples. They were not such savages as you Westerners 
imagine. But have I not prophesied? The West will redis- 
cover before this century closes how real are these invisible 
forces which enter into the lives of all men." 

"It will be extremely hard for the West to give up its inborn 
notion that a man's will is free to make or mar his own life." 

"Whatever happens is by His will and what seems like free 
will really works by His power. The Almighty returns to men 
the good or evil fruits of their thoughts and deeds in earlier 


bodies. It is best to accept His will, but one will not tremble 
under sorrows if one looks to Him for the strength to endure 

"Let us hope that you are right, for the sake of those 
unfortunate beggars whom we have just encountered." 

"That is the only answer I can make," he rejoins shortly. 
"If you would follow the path into your own soul, the way of 
Brahma Chinta which I have shown you, these problems 
would clear themselves." 

I realize that he has now conducted me to the limits of his 
argumentative possibilities and that I must find my own way 

One of my coat pockets hides a fateful telegram, that bids 
me whisk myself into a train out of Benares. In another pocket 
there reposes a folding kodak. I ask the astrologer to pose for 
his photograph. He politely declines. 

I press him more insistently. 

"But why?" he remonstrates. "My ugly face and shabby 

"Please! Your photograph will remind me of you in later 
years when I may be in distant lands." 

"The best reminder," he replies gently, "will be holy 
thoughts and unselfish deeds." 

I yield to his objection reluctantly, and the camera dis- 
appears again into my pocket. 

When he rises to return at last and I begin to follow him, I 
discover, close by, a seated figure, who has taken shelter from 
the terrific sun under a huge, round, bamboo umbrella. His face 
is fixed in rapt meditation and I perceive by the ochre colour 
of his robe that he is a holy man belonging to a superior order. 

We go a little way and find a cow - possibly a member of the 
sacred variety which abounds in Benares - sleeping in that 
strange posture familiar to its kind. It lies across our track 
with legs doubled back under its abdomen. 

We reach the shop of a money-changer, where I hail a 
carriage and then our ways part. 


I indulge in an orgy of travelling during the next few days. 
I spend my nights in wayside rest houses put up by a paternal 
government for travelling officials and other persons who have 
to journey into the interior. 

One of these rest houses possesses no amenities worth 


mentioning, but I discover that it has a plentiful population of 
ants. After two hours' slow torture and vain efforts to repel 
their attacks, I decide to leave the bed and spend the night in 
a chair. 

Time trickles by unpleasantly until my thoughts let go of 
their surroundings and fasten themselves upon the fatalistic 
philosophy of the Benares astrologer. 

Simultaneously I remember the wretched beggars who 
dragged their hungry bodies along the road. Life does not let 
them live and does not let them die. The wealthy Marwari 
money-lender may pass them in his ornate, comfortably-sprung 
carriage, but they accept him, as they accept their misery, 
with a complete submission to the will of God. In this land 
of a burning sky, even the pitiful leper seems content with his 
lot. Such is the narcotic fatalism which creeps into the bones 
of so many Indians! 

I realize how vain it is for the Occidental partisan of free 
will to argue with the Oriental advocate of an all-powerful 
destiny. To the latter there is but one side to the problem, 
the side which unquestioningly accepts the dogma that there 
is no problem! Fate rules his roost and there is nothing 
more to be said. 

What self-reliant Westerner likes to hear that we are but 
marionettes which dangle from the strings of fate, and which 
move up and down or from right to left at the bidding of an 
unseen hand? I remember that remarkable outburst of 
Napoleon before his army's brilliant dash across the Alps: 

"Impossible? There is no such word in my dictionary!" 

But I have studied and re-studied the fascinating records of 
Napoleon's entire life, and memory brings back to me strange 
lines which he wrote down at St. Helena, where his colossal 
brain raced again and again over the past. 

"I was always a fatalist. What is written in the heavens is 
written. . . . My star grew dim; I felt the reins slip from my 
hands and yet I could do nothing." 

The man who held such paradoxical, contradictory beliefs 
could not have solved the mystery and one doubts whether 
anyone has ever completely solved it. It may be that ever 
since the brain of man commenced to function, this ancient 
problem has been discussed by people all the way from the 
North Pole to the South. The cocksure, as usual, have settled 
it to their satisfaction. The philosophical still enter up the 
account of pros and cons but hesitate to strike a balance. 

I have not forgotten the astrologer's surprisingly correct 


interpretation of my horoscope. At odd moments I have 
mused over it, until I wonder whether some of this Oriental 
fatalistic foolishness has crept into my head. Whenever I have 
remembered how this man of modest assumptions read my 
past, how he recalled the fluttering phenomena of bygone 
events back to temporary existence, I hesitate and feel tempted 
to collect material for a fat treatise upon this hoary problem of 
fate and free will. But I know that it will be a useless task to 
let my pen play with the thought of destiny and that I may 
probably finish up in the same abysmal darkness with which I 
begin. For the problems of astrology will need to be brought 
in and my task will become complicated beyond my power. 
Yet such are the gigantic strides of modern invention, that the 
day when we shall take Cook's tours to the distant planets may 
not be far off! It will then be possible to discover whether 
the starry frame possesses any real significance in our lives. 
Meanwhile, one may test the powers of an astrologer or two, 
bearing in mind Sudhei Babu's warning about their fallibility 
and about the fragmentary nature of that portion of astrology 
which has been revealed to the world. 

And yet, even assuming and admitting that in some strange 
fourth-dimensional manner the future already exists, is it 
desirable to learn those secrets of personal destiny which are 
curtained from one's eyes 

On this questioning note, my musings come to a dead end 
and sleep overtakes me. 

A few days later I am in a town several hundred miles away 
from Benares, when the news comes of startling riots in the 
latter city. It is the unpleasant story of Hindu-Moslem strife, 
which usually begins in a petty way, but is used by ruffians 
who want a pseudo-religious pretext for their looting, maiming 
and murdering. 

A reign of terror rules the city for several days. That 
lamentable period brings the usual tale of broken heads, 
tortured bodies and indiscriminate slaying. I feel concerned 
for the astrologer's safety, but it is impossible to get into touch 
with him. The postmen are too scared to venture into the 
streets and no private letter or telegram can be delivered. 

I am compelled to wait until King Mob is dethroned in 
Benares, and then desptach one of the first wires which pene- 
trate the unhappy city. Back comes a simple letter of thanks 
in which the astrologer ascribes his safety to "the protection 
of the Almighty." And upon the reverse side of the paper he 
has inscribed ten rules of practice of the Yoga of Brahma Chinta! 



OUT of the scurrying of my feet hither and thither 
over the face of North India, two tracks converge 
upon a unique, little-known colony, which is housed 
in a town that bears the poetical name of Dayalbagh, the 
Garden of the Lord. 

One of the tracks starts in Lucknow, where I have the good 
offices of Sunderlal Nigam as guide, philosopher and friend 
during my stay in that picturesque city. We roam the city 
together and talk philosophy as we roam. He is, I suppose, 
not more than twenty-one or twenty-two, but, like many of 
his Indian brothers, he has matured early. 

We wander through the old Moghul palaces and muse upon 
the inexorable fate which has overtaken the vanished kings. 
I fall in love anew with the glorious Indo-Persian architecture, 
whose graceful curves and delicate colourings reveal the 
refined taste of its creators. How shall I ever forget these 
bright days when I idle among the orange trees of the royal 
pleasure-gardens which grace Lucknow? 

We explore colourful edifices where once the seductive 
favourites of the old kings of Oudh flaunted their olive-skinned 
beauty upon marble balconies and in golden baths. Now these 
palaces are empty of royal flesh and hold only memories. 

I return again and again to a beautiful mosque which stands 
near the quaintly named Monkey Bridge. Its exterior- is 
white throughout and gleams in the sunlight like a fairy palace. 
The shapely minarets seem to rise in perpetual prayer to bright 
heaven. Peeping inside, I see a crowd of worshippers prostrat- 
ing themselves upon the ground and rhythmically invoking 
Allah. The scene receives accentuated charm from the 
brightly coloured little rugs upon which the devout perform 
their prostrations. None can doubt the fervour of these 
followers of the Prophet, for their religion seems a living force 
to them. 



Amid all these excursions and peregrinations I become 
gradually impressed by certain characteristics belonging to my 
young guide. His shrewd remarks, his exceptional intellectuality 
and his matter-of-fact attitude towards mundane affairs, are 
somehow blent with the depth and mysticism of a student of 
Yoga. It is only after repeated meetings and ardent discussions, 
during which I become aware that he is sounding and probing 
my own beliefs and ideas, that he reveals himself to be a 
member of a semi-secret fraternity called the Radha Soamis. 


I pick up the second track which leads me to Dayalbagh 
from Mallik, another member of the same brotherhood. He 
comes within my orbit at another place and time. As Indians 
go, he is a fine, fair-skinned, stalwart fellow. For centuries 
his people have had as neighbours, wild frontier tribes, who 
keep covetous eyes on their neighbours' possessions. But the 
wise British Government is taming these restless fire-eaters, 
not by recourse to the old methods of endless fighting, but by 
taking them into its service and pay. 

Mallik is superintending some of the fierce tribesmen who 
have submitted to the more pacific and useful occupations of 
making roads across hill and desert, constructing bridges, and 
building defence forts and barracks. Many of these wild- 
looking persons carry their rifles - more perhaps from old 
habit than from present need. They are at work all along this 
stretch of the North-West Frontier, making new routes for 
traders and new defences for soldiers. 

Mallik works hard and well near Dera Ismail Khan, that 
frontier outpost of Empire. His character harmoniously 
couples a sturdy self-reliance and intense practicality with 
nobility of character and profound thought. I am impressed 
by the careful balance of his qualities. 

After a strong initial reticence which is in accord with all the 
ancient traditions of Yoga, he reluctantly yields to my enquiries 
and admits that he has a master whom he periodically visits, 
whenever his service leaves permit him to do so. His master, 
whose name is Sahabji Maharaj, is head of the Radha Soamis. 
And I learn for the second time that his master has conceived 
the astonishing and interesting notion of combining a Yoga 
discipline with a daily life based on Western ways and ideas. 



The friendly efforts of these two men, Nigam and Mallik, 
bear fruit at last. I am to be the guest of His Holiness Sahabji 
Maharaj, who is uncrowned king of the Radha Soamis' own 
town of Dayalbagh. 

I motor the few, dusty miles of road from Agra to the 

Dayalbagh - the Garden of the Lord! If my early 
impression is correct, the founder is striving to keep the town 
true to its beautiful name. 

I am taken to a building which houses the master's private 
office. The waiting-room is furnished in an attractive European 
style. From my restful easy chair I can appreciate the nicely 
painted walls and the refined simplicity of the furniture. 

Here is Westernization with a vengeance! I have encoun- 
tered Yogis in bare, drab bungalows, in lonely mountain caves 
and in gloomy, thatched huts on river banks, but never have 
I expected to find one of the tribe housed in such a modern 
environment. What manner of man is the leader of this 
unusual fraternity, I wonder? 

I am not left long in doubt, for the door slowly opens and 
he himself walks in. His figure is of medium height. His head 
is wrapped in a spotless white turban; his features are refined, 
though not typically Indian; with a slightly paler skin he 
might have passed for a quiet American. A pair of large 
spectacles cover his eyes and a short moustache adorns his 
upper lip. He wears the high-necked many-buttoned long 
coat which is the Indian tailor's adaptation of our Western 

His bearing, as he approaches, is modest and gentle. He 
welcomes me with courtly dignity. 

Our greeting over, I wait till he has settled down in his chair 
and then venture to compliment him on the artistic decorations 
of the room. 

A row of brilliant teeth gleams across his mouth as he 
smiles his reply: 

"God is not only love but beauty. As man begins to express 
the Spirit within him, he should express more beauty - not 
only in self but in surroundings and environments." 

His English is noticeably well spoken. The voice is quick 
and confident. 

There is a little period of silence and then he speaks again: 


"But there is another decoration, upon a room's walls and 
furnishings, which is invisible. Yet it is very important. 
Do you know that these things carry the influence of people's 
thoughts and feelings? Every room, every chair even, gives 
out the unseen influence of the person who has constantly used 
it. You may not see this atmosphere but it is nevertheless 
there, and all who enter within its range are unconsciously 
affected by it - to varying degrees." 

"Do you mean that there are electrical or magnetic radiations 
around objects which reflect human characters?" 

"Quite so. Thoughts are real things on their own plane 
and they attach themselves, for shorter or longer periods, to 
whatever we consistently use." 

"That is an interesting theory." 

"It is more than a theory; it is a fact! Man possesses 
a subtler body than the physical, and in this subtle body there 
exist centres of activity which correspond to the physical organs 
of sense-activity. Through these centres he can discern invis- 
ible forces for, when they are energized, they bestow psychic 
and spiritual sight." 

A brief pause follows and then he asks my impressions of 
India's condition. I frankly criticize his country's neglect of 
modern ways of living, its slowness in picking up all those 
pleasant comforts, handy conveniences and mechanical inven- 
tions which improve man's brief sojourn in this world, its 
inattention to the demands of sensible hygiene and proper 
sanitation, and its excessive devotion to stupid social customs 
and cruel practices, which are supposedly based on religious 
practices. I tell him freely that priestly preoccupations seem 
to have kept India's energies in a cul-de-sac with deplorable 
results. I instance some of the irrational things which I have 
seen done in the name of religion, but which merely succeed 
in proving how men can neglect or misuse the gift of intelligence 
which their God has bestowed upon them. My outspoken 
observations draw a definite assent from the lips of Sahabji 

"You have hit on the very points which form part of my 
programme of reform," he remarks, gazing at me reminiscently. 

"On the whole, it seems that many Indians expect God to 
do for them what they are perfectly capable of doing for them- 

"Exactly. We Hindus talk glibly of religion in order to 
cover up a lot of things which have nothing to do with religion. 
The trouble is that for the first fifty years or so a religion is pure 


and vital. Later it degenerates into a mere philosophy; its 
followers become talkers - not religiously-living men. Finally 
it descends, for its last and longest phase, into the arms of 
hypocritical priests. In the end, hypocrisy becomes accepted 
as religion." 

I gasp at ,such straightforward admissions. 

"What is the use of wrangling about heaven and hell, about 
God and so forth? Humanity finds itself on the physical plane 
and it ought not to neglect the matters which pertain to this 
plane. Let us try to make our life here more beautiful and 
happier," he concludes. 

"That is why I have sought you out. Your disciples seem 
such fine men, straining to be as practical and up-to-date as any 
European, making no parade of religion but living good lives, 
and withal they keep to their Yoga practices with faithful 

Sahabji smiles in acknowledgment. 

"I am glad you have observed that," he replies quickly. 
"By setting up these activities at Dayalbagh I am attempting 
to show the world the same thing - that a man can be perfectly 
spiritual without running away to caves, and that he can reach 
the highest attainments in Yoga while carrying on with worldly 

"If you can succeed in that effort, the world may think a lot 
more of Indian teachings than it does now." 

"We are going to succeed," comes the confident answer. 
"Let me tell you a story. When I first came here to begin the 
colony, one of my chief desires was to have plenty of trees about 
the place. But outsiders told me that it was impossible to grow 
trees in this barren, sandy soil. The Jumna is not far off and 
this site is one of its old tracks - an ancient river bed, in short. 
There were no experts among us and we had to learn by frequent 
experiment and constant failure which kind of tree could live 
in such unpromising soil. Almost all the trees planted during 
the first year - and there were over a thousand of them - died 
off. However, one tree thrived. We noted it and kept up 
our endeavours. Now there are nine thousand healthy trees 
growing in Dayalbagh. I tell you this because it is symbolical 
of the attitude with which we are facing our problems. We 
found barren ground here; it seemed so worthless that no one 
else would buy it. Look how it has been transformed!" 

"Then it is your aim to build an Arcadia near Agra?" 

He laughs. 

I tell him of my desire to see the town. 


"Certainly! I shall arrange it for you at once. See Dayal- 
bagh first and then we can talk about its why and wherefore. 
You will understand my ideas better when you can see them 
in practice." 

He rings a business-like bell. A few minutes later I 
am walking on a tour of inspection along half-finished streets 
and among bright-looking factory buildings. My guide is 
Captain Sharma, who was formerly in the Indian Army Medical 
Service, but who is now devoting all his services to the con- 
structive effort which is being made here by his master. A 
quick reading of his character conveys the impression of another 
successful combination of Western striving with sincere 

A luxuriant avenue provides the entrance to Dayalbagh, 
which is a clean little town. All the streets are bordered by 
shady trees. Some beautiful flower gardens adorn the central 
place. I am told that they represent repeated efforts to conquer 
dry desert, which does not take kindly to horticultural activity. 

A mulberry tree which was planted by Sahabji Maharaj in 
1915, when he began to build his colony, stands as a symbol of 
his appreciation of an artistic background. 

The industrial quarter's chief feature is a group of workshops 
which are called "Model Industries." They are sensibly 
designed, light, airy, clean and spacious. 


My first steps take me into the footwear factory. Busy 
driving-belts hum continuously from an overhead spindle and 
set a long line of machines in operation. The dusky mechanics 
work with deft hands amid the din, and seem as expert at 
their task as the operators I have seen in huge English factories 
at Northampton. The workshop manager tells me that he had 
learnt his technique in Europe, whither he had gone to study 
twentiety-century methods of leather-goods manufacture. 

Boots, shoes, sandals, handbags and belts pass noisily through 
all the processes of mechanical manufacture. The men at the 
machines had begun as raw novices and were taught and trained 
to their work by the manager. 

Some of the goods produced find a local outlet in Dayalbagh 
and in Agra, while the rest goes to more distant cities. Shops 
are being opened in the latter places, the sales organization being 
based on the multiple store idea. 


I pass into the next building, which proves to be a textile 
factory. The products are mercerized cloths and silks, which 
are made in a limited range of patterns. 

In another building I find an up-to-date engineering 
machine-shop, a smithy and a moulding shop, where a monster 
sledge-hammer sounds the active inspiration of the place with 
each of its power-operated thuds. Scientific instruments, 
laboratory apparatus, balances and weights are being made in 
a nearby workshop, and made well enough to have won the 
patronage of the United Provinces Government. I watch 
the delicate operations of gold, nickel and brass electro-plating. 

The other departments of "Model Industries" are busily 
producing electric fans, gramophones, knives and furniture. 
One of the mechanics has invented a special type of sound- 
box and this, too, will be manufactured in the near future. 

I am surprised to discover a fountain-pen workshop and learn 
that it is the first one to come into existence in India. A long 
series of experiments has been necessary before the first pen 
could be marketed. One thing has baffled these industrial 
pioneers: how to put the iridium tip on gold nibs. They hope 
to discover the secret one day but meanwhile the nibs are sent 
to a European firm to undergo the process of tipping. 

A complete printing equipment at the Dayalbagh Press 
looks after the town's print needs, both in the business and 
literary fields. I inspect samples of its output in three languages 
- Hindu, Urdu and English. A small weekly newspaper, the 
Prem Pracharak, is also run off the machines and posted to 
many Radha Soamists living in distant parts of the country. 

In every building I find workers who are not merely satisfied 
but positively enthusiastic. A trade union would be an utter 
anomaly in this place. Everyone does his job, whether it be 
high or low, as though it were a real pleasure and not a task. 

The town possesses its own electrical generating installation, 
which provides the power for all the machinery in factories 
and for the ventilating ceiling fans in larger houses. In addition, 
every house is electrically illuminated at communal expense, 
thus avoiding the necessity of costly meters. 

The agricultural section contains a small but modern farm, 
which is still in an early stage of development. A steam 
tractor and a steam plough are amongst the mechanical equip- 
ment. The chief products are fresh vegetables and cow fodder. 

Perhaps the most efficiently organized section is the dairy 
farm. Nowhere else in India have I seen its like. It constitutes 
a model dairy fit for exhibition purposes. Every head of cattle 


is a picked specimen which provides a significant and favourable 
contrast to the animals one need not go further than Agra to 
see. Scrupulous cleanliness is observed in the stalls and I am 
told that the scientific methods pursued have resulted in a 
substantially higher yield of milk than that obtained in the 
average Indian dairy. A pasteurizing and refrigerating plant 
has enabled those inhabitants of Dayalbagh and Agra who 
appreciate good, germ-free milk to obtain it for the first time. 
Another imported appliance is an electrical butter-making 
machine. All the credit for this section goes to a son of Sahabji 
Maharaj. That energetic and efficient young man informs me 
that he travelled to the chief dairying centres of England, 
Holland, Denmark and the United States in order to learn the 
most up-to-date methods used in his work. 

The supply of water for the farms, as well as for the rest of 
the town, proved a difficult problem in the colony's early days. 
An irrigation canal was dug and a waterworks installation 
erected, but expanding demand forced Sahabji Maharaj to 
seek additional sources of supply. He enlisted the help of 
Government engineers, who bored a deep tube-well with 
successful results. 

The colony possesses its own banking institution, a strongly 
built structure with iron-grilled windows bearing the words: 
"Radha Soami General and Assurance Bank, Limited." 
The bank has an authorized capital of twenty lakhs 1 of rupees, 
and not only transacts private banking business but controls 
the town's finances. 

The Radha Soami Educational Institute stands in the centre 
of Dayalbagh; it is fitly placed for it is the finest building in 
the colony. Its two hundred feet of red brickwork look well 
to a Western eye. The windows are shaped into Gothic 
arches and surrounded by white marble. Flowering gardens 
front the edifice. 

This modern High School has several hundred students and 
is managed by a Principal and thirty-two qualified teachers. 
The latter are idealists who are young, enthusiastic and filled 
with a desire to serve both their pupils and their master, 
Sahabji Maharaj. A high standard of general education is 
maintained. No formal religious teaching is given but an 
effort is made to develop noble character. In addition, Sahabji 
Maharaj visits the boys from time to time and every Sunday 
delivers a spiritual talk to the assembled school. 

1 A lakh is the equivalent of 100,000, 


The boys are encouraged to practise sports; hockey, foot- 
ball, cricket and tennis are their favourites. A library with 
seven thousand books and a curious little museum complete 
the institute. 

Another magnificent building houses the Girls' College, 
which is conducted on similar lines. It represents a determined 
effort by Sahabji Maharaj to break down, within his own sphere 
of influence, the unenviable illiteracy which was forced on 
Indian women until recently. 

The Technical College is the youngest of the educational 
institutions. It provides courses in mechanical, electrical 
and automobile engineering, and trains mechanicians and fore- 
men for manufacturing industries. Special machines and 
benches have been placed in the " Model Industries " section 
for the use of college students, so that class-room instruction 
goes hand in hand with practical experience under factory 

There are several attractive hostels for the hundreds of pupils 
who attend the three colleges. Each hostel is light, airy and 

The residential part of the town is under the supervision 
of the Dayalbagh Building Department, which provides the 
plans and erects all houses. Each street possesses its own 
pleasant harmony of architecture, and it is evident that artistic 
unity is one of the ideals of these town-planners. Ugly erections 
and defective, shoddy buildings are barred, because a prospec- 
tive tenant is free to choose his style of house only from the 
Department's own plans. Four sizes of residence have been 
standardized at graded and fixed prices. The buyer pays actual 
cost plus a very small percentage. 

The colony maintains a bright little hospital and a maternity 
home. It has fixed its aim at being self-contained in every 
way, so that I am hardly surprised when I learn that the uni- 
formed policeman who brings his hand to a smart salute is also 
a member of the Radha Soami fraternity. Yet his presence 
raises a piquant note of enquiry in my mind, for I expect 
that the level of morality in Dayalbagh is so high as to render 
crime conspicuous by its absence. He is here to protect the 
place from undesirable intruders. 

When Sahabji Maharaj is able to spare me a little time again 
from the pressure of his heavy duties, I pay my meed of tribute 


to his praiseworthy achievement and then tell him of my 
astonishment at finding such a progressive town in unpro- 
gressive India. 

"But," I ask, "how do you finance it? You have surely 
spent a great sum in capital outlay?" 

"You will probably have an opportunity later of seeing the 
money come in," he returns. "The members of the Radha 
Soami fraternity are themselves financing the colony. There 
is no compulsion on them to do this, nor are subscriptions 
required from them, but they regard it as a religious duty 
to give what they can to help Dayalbagh grow. But although 
we have had to depend on these contributions during the 
initial stages, my aim is to make it completely self-supporting. 
I shall not rest until we approach the stage of complete inde- 

"You have wealthy supporters, then?" 

"Not at all. The rich Radha Soamis can be counted on the 
fingers of one hand. Our members are all in modest or moderate 
circumstances. The progress we have made has called for 
self-sacrifice on the part of many. Thanks to the grace of 
the Supreme Father, we have been able to find and spend many 
lakhs of rupees so far. The colony's future is assured, for its 
income will grow as our fraternity expands; therefore, we 
shall never be out of funds." 

"How many members have you?" 

"Our membership is over 110,000 but, of course, only a few 
thousands have settled here. The Radha Soami fraternity 
is nearly seventy years old but its greatest growth has been 
made during the last twenty years. And this progress has 
occurred, mind you, without any public propaganda because 
we are a semi-secret organization. If we cared to come out 
into the public eye and propagate our teachings openly, we 
could increase our membership tenfold. Our members are 
spread all over India already, but they look to Dayalbagh as 
their headquarters and visit us as often as they can. They 
are organized into local groups which meet every Sunday at 
precisely the same hour when we hold a special meeting at 

Sahabji pauses to wipe his spectacles. 

"Just consider. When we began building this colony we 
possessed no more than five thousand rupees, which had been 
presented for the purpose. Our first plot of ground was no 
larger than four acres; now, Dayalbagh covers thousands of 
acres. Does it not seem that we are indeed growing? " 


"How large do you intend to make Dayalbagh?" 
"I expect to settle about ten to twelve thousand people here 
and then we shall stop. A town of twelve thousand people, if 
it is properly laid out, is large enough. I do not want to copy 
the monstrous towns of your Western countries; they are 
overcrowded and therefore breed many undesirable qualities. 
I want to build a garden city where people can work and live 
happily, where they can have plenty of space and air. It will 
take a few years more to finish Dayalbagh's growth and then 
it will be a model community. Incidentally, when I first read 
Plato's Republic I was pleasantly surprised to find in that 
book many of the ideas I am trying to express here. When 
Dayalbagh is complete I want it to act as a prototype for the 
creation of similar communities all over India, or at least one 
in each province. I shall offer it as my solution of many 

"You want India to turn her energies into industrial develop- 

"Most certainly. That is her crying need. But - I would 
not like to see India lose herself completely in it, as you in the 
West have done," he laughs back. "Yes, India must build 
up an industrial civilization to rid herself of the poverty which 
grinds the masses, but she must build it up on a system which 
will avoid the fight between capital and labour that would 
otherwise accompany it." 

"How do you propose to do that?" 

"By aiming at personal well-being through general well- 
being, and not at the expense of the community. We work 
on a co-operative principle and everyone sets the success of 
Dayalbagh as being higher than personal success. There are 
pioneers working here for salaries much lower than those they 
could obtain elsewhere; I refer to trained and educated men, 
not to illiterate labourers, of course, who do this voluntarily 
and gladly. This principle works well here only because 
we are inspired by a spiritual purpose, which is also the motive 
power behind all our other efforts. Some men, who are in a 
position to do so, are even giving their services freely. This 
will show you what a fine spirit and enthusiasm our people 
have. But when Dayalbagh is fully developed and com- 
pletely self-supporting, I hope such sacrifices will be unneces- 
sary. Anyway, it is the ideal of making spiritual progress more 
quickly which has brought these people here, for that is the 
fundamental aim of our fraternity. If you were to come here and 
join our colony, you might be worth a thousand rupees a month, 


but you might have to take only one-third that amount because 
we cannot afford to pay high salaries. Then, gradually, you 
might build a house, acquire a wife and beget children. But 
if, in this process, you begin to think only of the material side 
of your career and to lose sight of the spiritual ideal for which 
you really joined us, then to that extent you begin to fail. 
Despite all these material activities you see here, we try never 
to lose sight of the central purpose for which our fraternity 
was founded." 
"I see." 

"Now we are not socialists in your Western sense, but it 
is a fact that the industries, the farms and colleges are owned 
by the community. Moreover, this ownership extends to land 
and houses. You may build a house here but it is yours only 
whilst you tenant it. Beyond these limits, everyone is perfectly 
free to possess and accumulate whatever money and property 
he has and wherever he has it. This, of course, completely 
divides us from the tyrannies of socialism. All our communal 
properties and all the money offerings voluntarily made by 
members are regarded as trusts to be administered in a religious 
spirit. Everything is subordinated to our spiritual ideal. 
This administration is supervised by a body of forty-five 
members, representative of the various provinces in India, 
which meets twice a year to scrutinize accounts and consider 
budgets. The ordinary work and general control is in the 
hands of an executive committee of eleven members." 

"You said before that you would offer Dayalbagh as a 
solution of many problems. I do not see how you can offer it 
as a solution of the economic problem, which is, perhaps, the 
chief one to-day." 

Sahabji Maharaj smiles confidently. 

"Even India may have something useful to contribute on 
that point," he rejoins. " Let me tell you about a plan which 
we have lately put into operation in order to quicken our rate of 
growth during the next few years. This plan, to my mind, 
embodies economic and social principles of radical importance. 
We have established an inheritance fund which invites offerings 
from those of our members who are able to subscribe one 
thousand rupees and upwards. Every such subscriber then 
receives an annuity of not less than 5 per cent from our adminis- 
trative committee. At his death, the same annuity will be paid 
to his wife, child or whoever else he has previously named. 
The second person has the same right to name his or her suc- 
cessor to the annuity. But with the death of the third generation, 


all payment ceases. Should the original subscriber find 
himself in difficult circumstances or urgent need, then part or 
even all of his sum may be repaid him. Thus, lakhs of rupees 
will, in course of time, pour into the coffers of our committee 
through the inheritance fund, yet the purses of our members 
will not be laid under heavy toll. Whatever contribution they 
make, they will be sure of a moderate income in return." 1 

"I take it that you are trying to find a clear place between 
the evils of capitalism and the fancies of socialism. Anyway, I 
am sure you will deserve every bit of your success and I hope it 
comes quickly." 

It becomes clear to me that Dayalbagh possesses assured 
resources for a successful future in the ever-growing inheritance 
fund, in the constant stream of voluntary donations and in those 
industries which have reached a profit-making stage. 

"Several well-known leaders in India are watching our 
experiment and waiting to see its result," says the white- 
turbaned head of the Radha Soamis. "Some have visited 
Dayalbagh and even critics who oppose our ideas have come 
here. You see, the Indian people are among the weakest and 
poorest in the world, and its leaders offer conflicting panaceas. 
Gandhi came here once and engaged me in a long conversation. 
He wanted me to join his political campaign, but I refused. 
We have nothing to do with politics here. We believe in con- 
centrating on the practical means of regeneration. Although I 
do not concern myself with Gandhi's political plans, I scout 
his economic ideas as being visionary and unpractical." 

"He wants India to throw all machinery into the sea." 

Sahabji shakes his head. 

"India cannot go back to the past; she must go forward and 
develop the best points of a material civilization, if she is to 
become more prosperous. My countrymen had better take a 
lesson from America and Japan. The hand spinner and the 
hand weaver can no longer stand the onslaught of modern 
rationalized methods." 

And as Sahabji Maharaj expounds his ideas I catch the picture 
of an alert American mind encased in a brown Hindu body, so 
efficient and business-like is his manner, so precise is the 
expression of his thoughts. My rational temperament is 

1 European economists have long been familiar with an almost 
identical scheme evolved by Professor Rignano, of Italy, who proposed 
to modify the law of inheritance in such a way as to cause the least 
opposition and entail the least sacrifice. 


attracted by his air of common sense, balance and sanity - 
qualities not very common in this sub-continent. 

I realize anew the curious paradox which his character 
presents. Master of over one hundred thousand people, who 
practise a mysterious form of Yoga prime organizer of the 
multifarious and materialistic activities which seethe around me 
in Dayalbagh; taken all in all, I write him down as a brilliant 
and breath-taking man. Nowhere in India, nowhere in the 
entire world, may I expect to meet his like again. 

His voice breaks into my thoughts. 

"You have seen two aspects of our life here in Dayalbagh, 
but our activities are threefold. Man's own nature is threefold 
- spirit, mind and body. Therefore we have the workshops 
and farms for physical work, the colleges for mental growth, 
and lastly there are the group meetings for spiritual activities. 
Thus we aim at harmonious and all-round growth for each 
individual. But we place the greatest emphasis on the spiritual 
side and every member of our fraternity endeavours to carry 
out his individual Yoga practices regularly, wherever he may 

"May I join one of your group meetings?" 

"With pleasure. We shall welcome you at every gathering." 


Dayalbagh's activities begin at six o'clock in the morning 
with the first group meeting. Dawn swiftly rubs away the 
darkness of night; sweet chirrups mingle with the funereal 
cries of crows; and all the birds begin their matutinal homage 
to the sun. I follow my guide to a gigantic canvas structure, 
which is supported by wooden posts. 

A huge crowd of people presses around the entrance, where 
each person removes his sandals or shoes and hands them to 
waiting attendants. I follow the requirements of custom and 
then enter the great tented hall. 

A raised platform stands in the centre and His Holiness 
Sahabji Maharaj sits there in a chair. Hundreds of his followers 
squat in circling ranks around him, so that the entire floor is 
carpeted with human bodies. All eyes are turned upon the 
master, all tongues are still in silent reverence. 

I make my way to a place beneath the platform and then 
squeeze myself into the narrow space. Soon, two men stand up 
at the rear of the hall and their voices break out into a slow 


chant. The words are Hindi and the rhythm is extremely 
agreeable to one's ears. This continues for some fifteen 
minutes, by which time the strange, sacred words have lulled 
one into a peaceful mood. And then the voices diminish in 
volume until they die down altogether. 

I look around. Every person in the vast tent is quiet, 
motionless, sunk in meditation or prayer. I look at the modest, 
plainly dressed figure on the platform, from whose lips no 
single word has yet come. His face is graver than usual; his 
alert, active manner has disappeared; and a serene contempla- 
tion seems to engage his mind. What thoughts cross and criss- 
cross under his white turban, I wonder? What responsibility 
lies upon his shoulders, for all these people regard him as their 
sacred link with a higher life! 

The utter silence lasts for another half-hour. Not a cough, 
not even a stir! Have all these contemplative Orientals with- 
drawn their minds into a world barred to the sceptical 
Westerner? Who knows? But it is a striking prelude 
to the forceful activities which will soon make the town 

We recover our footgear and quietly disperse home- 

During the morning hours I enter into conversation with 
many Radha Soamists, both residents and visiting members. 
Several of them speak good English. There are turbaned men 
from the North-West, pig-tailed Tamils from the South, active 
little Bengalees from the East and bearded figures from the 
Central Provinces. I am impressed by their air of self-respect 
and by the shrewd practicality which counterpoises their 
spiritual aspirations. If their desires soar into the empyrean, 
their feet still walk firmly on the solid earth. Here, I reflect, is 
a type of citizen of whom any town might be proud. I like 
them instinctively and admire them immensely, for they 
possess that rare quality - character! 

A smaller meeting takes place during the afternoon. It is a 
brief, informal affair intended for the benefit of visiting 
members. Individual problems are discussed, questions 
answered and some matters of general concern are dealt with. 
Sahabji Maharaj reveals an uncommon resourcefulness in the 
way he disposes of everything which comes up. He adopts a 
chatty, witty tone, is never at a loss for an answer to the subtlest 
query, and delivers quick, confident opinions upon the most 
varied spiritual and material problems. His entire attitude 
betokens an unusual and successful reconciliation of complete 


self-confidence with quiet humility. He shows that he possesses 
an engaging sense of humour, which crops up again and again 
in merry remarks. 

The evening brings another group meeting. Every work- 
shop, store and farm in the colony has closed its activities for 
the day and a vast gathering once more fills the giant tent. 
Sahabji Maharaj occupies his platform chair again. I watch a 
file of his followers approach his seat and voluntarily place 
contributions for the funds of the board of management at his 
feet. Two committee members collect and record all these 

The chief event which follows is a lengthy address by the 
master. His thousands of followers listen to the well-spoken 
Hindi with absorbed attention, for he has a good oratorical 
style. He seems to speak from the heart in a picturesque 
manner which is pregnant with deep feeling. He is so animated 
by a fiery vigour and ardent enthusiasm that the inspiring 
effect upon his hearers becomes almost palpable. 


Each day the same unvarying programme is followed. The 
evening meeting is the longest, for it lasts nearly two hours. 
It says much for the power of Sahabji Maharaj's mentality 
that he can keep up this programme without difficulty and with 
his usual dynamic power. No one knows beforehand what the 
subject of his evening address will be. I question him upon 
the point and he replies: 

"When I sit down in the chair I am quite unaware of the 
subject. Even after I have begun, I do not know what my next 
sentence will be or even how I will finish. I trust myself 
unreservedly to the Supreme Father. He tells me instantly 
whatever I need to know. I take my orders from Him 
internally. I am actually in His hands." 

The words of his first address haunt me for some days. 
Its theme of surrendering to a master piques my mind until 
I broach it eventually to Sahabji. We sit on a carpeted piece 
of ground in the centre of Dayalbagh - it is something like a 
village green - and develop a friendly discussion. 

He reiterates his point and adds: 

"The master is absolutely necessary. There is no such 
thing as self-reliance in the spiritual sphere." 

"But did you find one necessary?" I ask boldly. 


"Without a doubt. I spent fourteen years searching for a 
true master before I found him." 

"Fourteen years! A fifth of your life! Was it worth 

"The time spent in search of a true master is never wasted, 
even if it is twenty years," he replies, quick as a flash. "Before 
I became a believer I was as sceptical as you are. And then I 
grew desperate in trying to discover a teacher who could open 
the way to spiritual illumination. I was young and simply 
crazy to find the truth. I asked the trees, the grass, and the 
sky to enlighten me if truth existed. I sobbed my heart out like 
a child, with head bent low, begging for light. Finally I could 
stand the strain no longer. One day I resolved to give up eating 
and starve to death, unless and until the divine power saw fit to 
grant me some illumination. I could no longer work even. 
The next night I had a vivid dream, wherein a master appeared 
to me and revealed himself as such. I asked for his address. 
His answer was: 'Allahabad! You will know my full address 
later.' The next day I spoke to a friend who belonged to that 
town and told him of my dream. He went away and returned 
with a group photograph and asked me if I could indentify the 
master's face in the group. I at once pointed to it. My friend 
then explained that he belonged to a semi-secret society in 
Allahabad and that the figure I indicated was the master. I 
quickly got into touch with him and became a disciple." 

"How interesting!" 

"Even if you take up Yoga exercises alone and depend on 
your own powers, the day your true prayer is heard will be the 
day when you will be led to meet a master. There is no escape. 
You must have a guide. A sincere, fully determined seeker 
will eventually be brought to his real master." 

"How is one to recognize him?" I murmur questioningly. 

Sahabji's face relaxes and an amused expression flickers 
across his eyes for a moment. 

"The master knows beforehand who is to come to him and 
he will draw them magnetically to him. His power meets their 
destiny and the result is inescapable." 

A little company of variegated figures has gathered around 
us and is rapidly increasing. Soon, Sahabji Maharaj will have 
not one hearer, but two or three score. 

"I have been trying to form a clear understanding of your 
Radha Soami doctrines," I tell him, "but they are hard nuts. 
One of your disciples has loaned me some writings on the 
subject by an earlier master of your fraternity, His Holiness 


Brahm Sankar Misra, with the result that my brain is working 

Sahabji laughs. 

"If you want to understand the truths of Radha Soami 
teachings, you must perform our Yoga practices. We regard 
the daily performance of these practices as being far more 
important than theoretical understanding of our doctrines. I 
am sorry that I cannot explain the detailed methods of medita- 
tion we employ, because they are only imparted under a vow of 
secrecy to those who apply to join us and are accepted. But 
the basis of them is 'Sound-Yoga,' or 'listening for the 
internal sound,' as we usually call it." 

"The writings I am studying say that sound is the force 
which called the universe into being." 

"From a material standpoint you understand it correctly, 
but rather it is that a current of sound was the first activity of 
the Supreme Being at the beginning of creation. The universe 
is not the result of blind forces. Now this divine sound is 
known to our fraternity and can be phonetically transcribed. 
It is our belief that sounds bear the impress of their source, of 
the power which created them. Therefore, when one of our 
members listens internally and expectantly for the divine 
sound, with controlled body, mind and will, he will become 
lifted up towards the bliss and wisdom of the Supreme Being 
as soon as he hears the divine sound." 

"Is it not possible to imagine that the sound of the blood 
beating through one's arteries is the divine sound? What 
other sound can one hear internally?" 

"Ah, we do not mean any material sound, but a spiritual 
one. The force which appears as sound on our material plane 
is only a reflection of that subtler force whose workings evolved 
the universe. Just as your scientists have reduced matter to 
electricity, so we may trace the force which we hear on the 
material plane as sound to a higher vibration that escapes our 
physical ears because it exists on the spiritual plane. A sound 
carries the influence of the region whence it emanates and so, 
if you concentrate your attention inwardly in a certain way, 
you may one day hear the mystic words which sounded forth 
at the first upheaval in the primeval chaos and which form the 
true name of the Creator. The echoes of those words rever- 
berate back into man's spiritual nature; to catch those echoes, 
by means of our secret Yoga practice, and to trace them up to 
their origin is literally to be carried up to paradise. The 
man who faithfully carries out our Radha Soami practices 


which are intended to enable him to hear the mystic sound, 
will forget himself in utter ecstasy when at last it impinges 
itself upon his inner ear. " 

"Your teachings are startlingly novel." 

"To the West, but not to India! Kabir taught the Sound- 
Yoga in Benares as far back as the fifteenth century." 

"One hardly knows what to say about them." 

"Why the difficulty? You will readily admit that one form 
of sound - music - can throw a man into emotional ecstasy. 
Then how much more will the heavenly internal music affect 

"Agreed! - if one could prove that the internal music really 
does exist." 

Sahabji shrugs his shoulders. 

"I might present you with several arguments to convince 
your reason, but I fancy you are looking for something more 
than that. How can I prove the existence of super-physical 
states by mere reasoning? It is natural for the unprepared 
brain to perceive nothing beyond this physical world. If 
you want the best proof - first-hand experience - of these 
spiritual truths, then you must persistently follow up a course 
of Yoga practices. I assure you that the human body is really 
capable of higher functions than those we commonly know; 
that the innermost parts of our brain centres are associated 
with subtle worlds of being; that, after proper training, these 
centres can be energized until we become aware of these 
subtler worlds; and that the most important centre of all 
enables us to obtain divine consciousness of the highest 

"Are you referring to the brain centres known to 

"Partly. They are merely the physical organs through 
which the subtler centres work; the real activity takes place 
in the latter. The most important of these centres is the 
pineal gland, which, as you know, is situated in the region 
between the eyebrows. It is the seat of the spirit-entity in 
man. Shoot a man through that spot and death is certain 
and instantaneous. The spirit-currents which flow through 
the auditory, optic, olfactory and other nerves converge in 
that gland." 

"Our medical men are still puzzled about the chief functions 
of the pineal gland," I comment. 

"And well they might be, considering that it is the focus 
of the individual spirit-entity which gives life and vitality to 


man's mind and body. It is when this spirit-entity recedes 
from the pineal gland that the conditions of dream, deep sleep 
or trance supervene, and when it finally leaves the gland 
the body falls dead. Since the human body is an epitome of the 
entire universe, inasmuch as all the elements employed in the 
evolution of creation are represented in it on a miniature scale, 
and since it contains links with all the subtler spheres, it is 
quite possible for the spirit-entity in us to reach the highest 
spiritual world. When it leaves the pineal gland and passes 
upwards, its passage through the grey matter of the brain 
brings it into contact with the region of universal mind, and 
its passage through the white matter exalts its consciousness 
to lofty spiritual realities. But to attain this spiritual con- 
sciousness all the activities of the bodily senses have to be 
brought to a standstill, otherwise it is not possible to shut off 
external stimuli. Therefore the essence of our Yoga practices 
is a complete concentration which turns the current of attention 
inwards, away from one's environment, until a profound degree 
of internal contemplation is attained." 

I look away, trying to digest this suavely-spoken flow of 
subtle, recondite ideas. A goodly-sized gathering around us is 
taking a keen interest in the talk. The tranquil assurance 
which underlies their master's words attracts me, but . . . 

"You say that the only way to verify these statements is to 
practise your Sound- Yoga exercises. But you keep those 
exercises secret," I complain. 

"Whoever applies for admission to our fraternity and is 
accepted, will have our methods of spiritual practice com- 
municated verbally to him." 

"Can you not give me some personal experience first, some 
convincing proof at first hand? What you say may be per- 
fectly true - indeed, my heart wants to believe it." 

"You must join us first." 

"lam sorry. That I cannot do. I am built in such a way 
that it is difficult to give belief before proof." 

Sahabji spreads out his hands in a helpless gesture. 

"What can I do then? I am in the hands of the Supreme 


Day after day I attend all the group meetings as regularly 
as the members of the society themselves; I meditate silently 


in their midst and listen to their master's addresses; I question 
them freely and study such portions of the Radha Soami 
teachings concerning the universe and man as are made 
available to me. 

Late one afternoon I wander with a disciple about one mile 
or so away from Dayalbagh to where the jungle begins. Then 
we turn our feet towards the Jumna and eventually sit down 
on the banks of that wide river. From the steep and sandy 
height we watch the slow-moving water wind its placid way 
through the plain which stretches to Agra. Now and then a 
great vulture flaps its way over our heads towards its 

The Jumna! Somewhere along these banks Krishna moved 
victoriously among the milkmaids, charming them with his 
wondrous lute and his love-making. To-day he is probably 
one of the most worshipped gods in the Hindu pantheon. 

"Up till recent years," murmurs my companion, "this 
place was the abode of wild animals and at night they roamed 
over the very site on which Dayalbagh has been built. And 
now they avoid the place." 

We sit silently for a couple of minutes and then he says: 

"You are the first European to sit in our group meetings, 
though you will certainly not be the last. We appreciate the 
understanding and sympathy you have shown. Why don't 
you join our society?" 

"Because I have no faith in faith. Because I realize that it 
is fatally easy to believe in what you want to believe." 

He draws his knees up and rests his chin upon them. 

"The contact that you are having with our master will 
benefit you in any case. I shall not press you to join. We do 
not attempt to make converts and our members are not allowed 
to preach." 

"How did you learn of the existence of the society?" 

"Very simply. My father has been a member for many 
years. He does not live at Dayalbagh, but visits it from time 
to time. He brought me with him on some of those visits, 
but never, on any occasion, did he attempt to induce me to 
join. About two years ago I began to puzzle over things and 
went about questioning various friends as to their beliefs. 
I questioned my father, too, and what he told me drew me to 
the Radha Soami teachings. I was accepted as a member of 
the fraternity and time has confirmed my faith. I was fortunate, 
perhaps, because others have come to us only after a lifetime 
spent in perplexity." 


" If I could settle my doubts as easily and as quickly as you 
settled yours. . . . ? " I respond vacantly. 

Once again we both revert to silence. The dark blue 
Jumna water draws my gaze and I slip insensibly into a 
profound reverie. 

All the conscious and unconscious thinking of these Indians 
is coloured by faith, by the necessity of owning allegiance to 
some sort of a religion, creed or sacred script. Every kind of 
faith from the most degraded to the most dignified is represented 
in India. 

Once I stumbled across a little temple on the Ganges. Its 
pillars were covered with carved reliefs depicting men and 
women engaged in sexual embrace, and its walls were frescoed 
with erotic scenes which might horrify a Western clergyman. 
There is room for this kind of thing in Indian religion, and it 
may well be that the religious recognition of sex is a better 
thing than its relegation to the gutter, but then - there is also 
room for faiths embodying the loftiest and purest conceptions 
possible to man. Such is India! 

But nowhere in this land have I come across such an amazing 
cult as the Radha Soamis. It is undeniably unique. What 
brain other than Sahabji Maharaj's could have conceived this 
paradoxical combination of Yoga, the oldest learning in the 
world, with the high-pressure, mechanized civilization of an 
up-to-date European or American city? 

Is Dayalbagh likely to loom forth in Indian history out of all 
proportion to its present apparent unimportance? If India is 
a crossword puzzle to which no one seems to have yet found 
the correct solution, that is not to say that the coming years 
shall not provide an answer. 

Sahabji had laughed at Gandhi's preaching of medievalism, 
and the town of Ahmedabad, where Gandhi's own head- 
quarters lie, still echoes back this laughter. From the Sabar- 
mati River one can count half a hundred tall factory chimneys, 
which smoke defiance at the little cluster of white, wooden 
bungalows where the gospel of peasant handicrafts finds its 

The forceful impact of Western ways has begun to disin- 
tegrate India's traditional methods of carrying on the necessary 
business of living. The first Europeans who appeared off the 
sea coast of India brought not only bales of goods, but also 
ideas. When Vasco da Gama landed his rough-bearded sailors 
in the quiet harbour of Calicut, there began that process of 
Westernization which is moving at such a quick rate to-day. 


The industrialization of India has begun in a tentative and 
timid fashion, but it has begun. Europe has faced in turn the 
Renaissance of intellect, the religious reformation and the 
industrial revolution, and she has left these things behind. 
India has awakened and finds them lying in her stride. These 
are now her problems. Will she blindly imitate the Europeans 
or will she work out her own - and perhaps better - way of 
solving them? Will Sahabji Maharaj's unique contribution 
focus her attention one day? 

If I am certain of anything I am certain of this: India will 
be thrown into a melting-pot of unparalleled character before 
long. Thousands of years of a society tied up in worn-out 
traditions, imprisoned in hide-bound religious conventions, 
will vanish within two or three decades at most. It will seem 
a miracle, but it will happen. 

Sahabji Maharaj has evidently grasped this situation clearly 
enough. He realizes that we live in a new epoch; the old 
order of things is being destroyed everywhere, and in India as 
in other countries. Are Asiatic lethargy and Western practi- 
cality to remain twin incompatibilities? He thinks not. Why 
should not the Yogi put on a worldling's clothing? And so 
he gives forth the fiat that the Yogi must come out of his 
habitual seclusion and mingle with the noisy assemblages 
where men command machines. He thinks it is time for the 
Yogi to descend into the factory, the office and the school and 
attempt to spiritualize them - not by preaching and propaganda, 
but by inspired action. The way of hustling everyday activity 
can and must be made the way of heaven. A spiritually 
based way of living like Yoga, which stands too aloof from 
workaday men, may come to be regarded by them as a deceptive 
form of self-important stupidity. 

If Yoga is to remain the hobby of a few hermits, the modern 
world will have no use for it and the last traces of the dying 
science will disappear from existence. If it is to serve only 
as the delectation of some lean anchorites, we who push pens 
or ploughs, move amid the grease and grime of engine-rooms, 
who have to endure the hubbub of stock exchanges and the 
busy barter of shops, we shall roughly turn our heads away. 
And the attitude of the modern West will shortly be the 
attitude of modern India. 

Sahabji Maharaj has shrewdly foreseen the inevitable trend 
of things and has made a striking effort to save the ancient 
science of Yoga for modern use. This inspiring and strenuous 
man will certainly leave his mark upon his native land. He 


has realized that his country has lain in lethargy long enough. 
He sees clearly why the West, throbbing with manufacture 
and trade and its agriculture modernized, lives a wealthier 
life. He sees also that the culture of Yoga remains one of the 
valuable inheritances which India has received from her 
ancient sages, but that the few masters who keep this culture 
alive in lonely places are a fading remnant of their class; 
when they die, the real secrets of Yoga will die with them. 
And so he has come down from the rarefied air of those peaks 
of thought to our own times, to the energetic strivings of the 
twentieth century, and is endeavouring to relate the two. 

Is his effort too fantastic On the contrary, it is highly 
admirable. We live in days when Muhammed's tomb in 
Arabia is illumined by electric light, when the camel is being 
pushed off the desert sands of Morocco by luxuriously fitted 
motor cars. What then of India? This vast country, startled 
from the sleep of many hundred years by the impact of a 
completely opposite culture, must go on opening its heavy- 
lidded eyes. The English have done more than turn sandy 
deserts into fertile fields; than build canals and dams to assist 
agriculture and regulate the floods of great rivers; than fling 
an impenetrable barrier of highly efficient soldiers across the 
North -West Frontier to keep peace and property secure; than 
bring in a healthy breeze of sane, rational ideas. 

Out of the grey North and distant West came the white men. 
Fate placed India at their feet and the country became theirs 
with but a few efforts. 


Perhaps the world, incubating over Asiatic wisdom and 
Western science, will one day hatch out a civilization that will 
shame antiquity, deride modernity and amaze posterity. 

The trail of my meditation comes to an end. I raise my head 
and address a questioning word to my companion. I do not 
think he hears me. He continues to stare across the river, 
which reflects the last red light of sunset. It is the twilight 
hour. I watch the great orb make its rapid disappearance from 
the sky. The stillness is indescribable; all nature, dumb at 
the lovely sight, seems to have come to momentary rest. My 
heart drinks in the superb peace. Once more I glance at the 
other man. His figure is now wrapped in the shroud of fast- 
gathering dusk. 

So we sit in the dead silence for a few more minutes until the 
sun slips suddenly into black night. 

My companion rises and quietly leads me through the 


shadows back to Dayalbagh. Our walk terminates under a 
canopy of thousands of starry points of light. 


Sahabji Maharaj decides to leave Dayalbagh and go down to a 
place in the Central Provinces for a well-earned rest. I take 
the event as our destined time of farewell and plan a move in 
the same direction. We shall travel together as far as Timarni 
and then our ways will diverge. 

About one hour after midnight we descend on Agra Station. 
A score of close disciples accompany their master and so the 
size of our party is quite noticeable. Someone procures a chair 
for Sahabji, and while he sits in the midst of his devoted 
followers I pace the half-lit platform. 

During the day I have reviewed my stay at Dayalbagh and 
realize with regret that no memorable inner experience has 
occurred, no soul-upheaving vision of life's secret meaning has 
been vouchsafed to me. I had hoped that some illuminating 
Yogic expansion of consciousness might pierce my mental 
gloom for an hour or two, so that I could then follow up the track 
of Yoga with sight and not with faith. But no, the benediction 
is not for me. Perhaps I am not worthy of it; maybe I demand 
far too much; I do not know. 

From time to time I glance at the seated figure. Sahabji 
Maharaj possesses a magnetic personality which fascinates me. 
He is a curious mixture of American alertness and practicality, 
British predilection for correct conduct and Indian devoutness 
and contemplativeness. He is a type which is rare in the modern 
world. Over one hundred thousand men and women have 
entrusted the guidance of their inner lives to this man, yet he 
sits there in quiet modesty and humility, this unassuming master 
of the Radha Soamis. 

At last our train roars into the station and a giant headlight 
throws an uncanny illumination upon the scene through which 
the rails pass. Sahabji enters his reserved compartment and 
the rest of us sort ourselves into other carriages. I stretch 
myself out for a few hours' sleep and know nothing more until I 
awake in the morning with an incredibly dry throat. 

At every halt which the train makes during the next few 
hours, followers of Sahabji who live in the vicinity or even 
many miles away crowd around his compartment window. 
They have been notified of his journey in advance and eagerly 


seize the opportunity of obtaining this brief contact, for it is 
said in India that even a minute's contact with a master will 
produce important spiritual and material results. 

I seek and obtain Sahabji's permission to spend my last 
three hours with him in his own compartment. We fall into a 
long talk about world conditions, about the nations of the West, 
about India's future and about the future of his own cult. At 
the end he tells me in his pleasant, suave manner: 

"Let me assure you that I have no consciousness of India 
being my own country. I am cosmopolitan in outlook and look 
on all men as my brothers." 

Such amazing frankness delights me. It is so with all his 
conversations. He always goes straight to the point; he shoots 
every sentence at a definite target, and he has the full courage 
of his convictions. To converse with him, to commune with 
his mind, is a welcome experience. Always he comes out with 
some unexpected phrase, some new view-point on things. 

The train now moves across country at an angle which brings 
an intolerable sun through the window and into my eyes. The 
torrid heat bakes one's flesh, the merciless rays weary one's 
mind. I pull up the wooden sun-blind, that peculiar structure 
which is so curiously like a Venetian blind, and switch on the 
electric fan, thus gaining a slight relief from the midday heat. 
Sahabji Maharaj notices my discomfort and draws some oranges 
out of a travelling bag. He puts them on the small table and 
asks me to share them with him. 
"They will cool your throat," he observes. 
As his knife slowly parts the coloured peel, he remarks 

"You are right in being so careful about taking anyone as 
your master. Scepticism is a useful attitude before you decide 
on him, but afterwards you must have full faith. Don't rest 
until you find your spiritual preceptor. He is absolutely 

Before long there is a grinding sound and someone noisily 

"Timarni !" 

Sahabji Maharaj rises to depart. Something awakens in me 
before his disciples can come and capture him. It breaks my 
reserve, ignores my Western pride, crushes my anti-religious 
temperament and speaks through my lips. 

"Your Holiness, may I have your blessing?" 
He turns with a friendly smile, beams pleasantly through his 
glasses, and cordially pats my shoulder. 


"You have that already!" he assures me in farewell. 

I return to my compartment and the train moves rapidly 
away. Dun-coloured fields flash by the window. Little groups 
of drowsy-eyed cattle munch contentedly on the sparse 
herbage. My eyes register them only half-consciously, for my 
mind is carrying away a picture of a notable man, whom I 
greatly like and profoundly admire. For he is at once an 
inspired dreamer, a serenely-minded Yogi, a practical man of 
the world and a polished gentleman! 



THE trail from Agra to Nasik is a long one, but I shall 
make no more mention of it than this short paragraph, 
so that the record of my wanderings may come to its 
allotted end. 

The wheel of time turns its inevitable course and so carries 
me around India on its spokes. Once again I am to see Meher 
Baba, the Parsee holy man and self-styled "new messiah." 

It is with no keen desire that I return to him. The cold 
serpents of doubt have firmly coiled themselves around my 
mind, and a strong inner feeling tells me that my proposed stay 
near him will be a waste of time, and that Meher Baba, though a 
good man and one living an ascetic life, is unfortunatly suffering 
from colossal delusions about his own greatness. Incidentally, 
I have taken the trouble to investigate during my travels the 
few so-called miracles of healing which he is alleged to have 
performed. One is a case of appendicitis, and the sufferer's 
simple faith in Meher is said to have completely cured him. 
But strict enquiry shows that the doctor who has attended this 
man could discover nothing worse than severe indigestion! 
In another case a nice old gentleman, who has been reported 
cured overnight of a whole catalogue of ailments, seems to have 
had little more than a swollen ankle ! In short, the marvellous 
healing power of their master has been grossly exaggerated by 
his disciples, whose exuberant fervour is understandable enough 
in a country where fable often runs faster than fact. 

I do not believe that the Parsee messiah can keep the extra- 
ordinary promises of wonderful experiences which he has made 
me; but because I have agreed to spend a month near him, I 
think my pledge is not to be lightly broken. So, against every 
instinct and all judgment, I take train for Nasik, that he may 
not accuse me of never having given him the chance to prove 
his alleged powers. 




Meher has set up his headquarters in some modern houses 
on the extreme outskirts of the town. A retinue of forty dis- 
ciples wander aimlessly about the place. 

"What are you thinking about?" is one of his first questions 
to me when we meet. I feel tired and travel-worn; he has 
probably mistaken my haggard appearance for the pallor of 
profound meditation, but no matter, my reply is instantly 

"lam thinking of the dozen or more messiahs whom I have 
discovered in India since I have been here." 

Meher Baba does not seem surprised. 

"Yes," he rejoins with fingers moving slickly across his 
alphabet board, "I also have heard of some of them." 

"How do you explain it?" I ask innocently. 

His forehead contracts into wrinkles, but his mouth smiles 
in a superior sort of way. 

"If they are honest, then they are mistaken. If they are 
dishonest, then they are deceiving others. There are holy men 
who make good progress and then develop spiritual ' swelled- 
head.' Such a sad state of affairs usually arrives when they 
have no proper master to advise and guide them. There is a 
point which is midway along the mystical path and which is 
most difficult to cross; it often happens that the person whose 
devotions have brought him to this point foolishly believes 
that he has reached the highest goal. It takes little more for 
him to imagine himself a messiah!" 

"An excellent and logical explanation. But unfortunately I 
have heard very much the same thing from the other men who 
claim to be messiahs. Each asserts that he is perfect; each 
allots imperfection to his rivals!" 

"Do not worry about it. All these people are unconsciously 
helping to do my work. I know who I am. When the time 
comes for me to fulfil my mission, the world will also know who 
I am." 

It is not possible to argue rationally in such an atmosphere, 
so I let the matter drop. Meher Baba indulges in some 
pleasant platitudes and then dismisses me. 

I settle down to live in a bungalow which is two or three 
minutes' walk from his headquarters. I resolve ruthlessly to 
thrust my feelings aside and keep a perfectly open mind to the 
events of the coming four weeks. There shall be no mental 


hostility to Meher, no inner attitude of scepticism, but rather a 
mood of expectant waiting. 

Each day I associate closely with the disciples: I see their 
manner of existence, study their psychological make-up and 
probe into the history of their spiritual relationship to Meher. 
Each day the Parsee messiah gives me a little of his time. We 
talk about many things and he answers many questions, but 
not once does he make any reference to the strange promises 
which he gave me at Ahmednagar. I resolve to make no 
attempt to jog his memory and so the matter seemingly falls into 

One result of the constant rain of questions which I let fall 
upon him and his disciples - partly out of my journalistic 
instinct of curiosity and partly out of a sincere desire to find 
enough facts, either to buttress my intuitions of the futility of 
my visit or to dispose of them altogether - is that he places at 
my disposal a set of secret diaries which have been kept by his 
command for several years. They contain a connected history 
of the chief events concerning the messiah and his group of fol- 
lowers, and a record of every important teaching, message and 
prophecy which he has verbally given out. These books cover 
nearly two thousand pages of closely written manuscript, 
which is mostly composed in English. 

The diaries have clearly been compiled in a spirit of blind 
faith, but I find them to be a valuable searchlight upon Meher's 
character and powers. The very honesty of these pages, 
despite their devoutness, in recording matters which might 
seem trivial to an outsider excellently serves my purpose, for I 
view these matters as psychological straws that show which way 
Meher's mind is moving. The two disciples who have kept 
these diaries are young men with only a fragmentary experience 
of life beyond their extremely limited circle, but their very 
naivete and complete trust in their master have caused them to 
place on record things which are really uncomplimentary to 

Why have they recorded that Meher struck one of his most 
intimate disciples a stinging blow on the ears during a train 
journey to Muttra, a blow so severe that the unfortunate fol- 
lower had to seek medical attention? Why have they recorded 
the lame excuse of their master, this man who preaches a 
gospel of divine love, that when a messiah pretends to show 
anger towards one of his devotees, the sins of the latter which 
are awaiting punishment are thereby heavily reduced? Why 
have they recorded the comical incident of the disciple who 


was "lost" at Arangaon for whom Metier sent out a search 
party which returned after several hours without its quarry. 
He turned up of his own accord ultimately and explained that 
having suffered with insomnia for several nights, he had 
unexpectedly fallen asleep in a disused building which stood 
close to Meher's own abode! The master, who claims to have 
been taken into the council of the gods and to know the future 
of all mankind, did not know that his "lost " disciple was in 
the next field! 

I find enough matter, therefore, to feed the doubts which 
live repressed existences in my own mind. I find also that 
Meher Baba is a fallible authority, a man subject to constantly 
changing moods, and an egotist who demands complete enslave- 
ment on the part of his brain-stupefied followers. And lastly, 
I find in these pages that he is a prophet whose predictions are 
seldom verified. At our first meeting near Ahmednagar he 
prophesied a coming world-war, but refused to say when it is 
going to happen, although he was careful to impress me with 
the claim that he knows the date. Now, in these diaries, I 
discover that he has made the same prophesy to his intimate 
disciples, and that he has made it not once but several times. 
On each occasion he has had to give a different date for that 
calamitous event because, as each date arrives, no war arrives. 
One year, when things look ominous in Asia, he has placed the 
outbreak in the East; another year, when things look dark in 
Europe, and when he has forgotten his earlier failure, he has 
placed it in the West, and so on. His caution in hesitating 
to give me a date at Ahmednagar now becomes comprehensible. 
I tax one of the more intelligent disciples with this series of 
unfulfilled predictions and he candidly admits that most of his 
master's prophecies are generally wrong. "I doubt whether 
the war will ever take place as an ordinary war, but it will 
probably happen as an economic war!" he concludes 

Though I turn the last page of these astonishing diaries with 
a smile, I candidly confess to myself that I have read lofty and 
soul-elevating discourses in them, and that Meher Baba 
possesses religious genius. Whatever success he may have 
will arise from that last quality. But I do not forget one of his 
own sayings, recorded somewhere in these pages, that "Ability 
in advising others about virtue is no proof of saintliness, nor 
is it a mark of wisdom." 



It is better to pass over the rest of my stay in prudent silence 
If I am living in the company of a world deliverer and redeemer 
of mankind, there is little to make me aware of my good fortune. 
This, perhaps, is because I am more interested in tangible 
facts than mythical legends. I shall not enter into the tale of 
childish actions and unfulfilled predictions, blind obedience 
to irrational orders on the part of disciples, and messianic 
advice which only increases the troubles of those who follow it. 

Meher Baba seems to be avoiding contacts with me as my 
stay draws to its close, or it may be my fancy. When I do 
see him, he is always in a tremendous hurry, and rushes away 
a few minutes after. Each day I become conscious of my false 
position, and it is possible that Meher himself knows the dis- 
comfort which increasingly troubles me. 

I wait for the wonderful experiences he has promised me, 
though I never expect them to arrive. My expectations are 
completely fulfilled! Nothing unusual happens nor do I see 
anything unusual happening to the other men. I make no 
effort to put Meher under a stringent interrogatory, merely 
because I realize the futility of such a proceeding. However, 
with the passing of the month I announce my impending depar- 
ture and then tax Meher Baba with his failure to redeem his 
words. For answer he lightly transfers the date of his promised 
marvels to a couple of months later, and then dismisses the 
matter! I may be mistaken, but I fancy that an inward 
nervousness is affecting him, a peculiar impatience with my 
presence, a condition which I sense rather than see with my 
eyes. Yet I make no attempt to argue with him, for I see that 
it is useless to pit my straightforward direct question in unequal 
combat with his elusive Oriental mind. 

Even at the last moment of parting, when I bid an amicable 
adieu and polite farewell for ever to Meher Baba, he talks as 
though there can be no question but that he is the world teacher 
for whom many are waiting. He even asserts that when he is 
ready to go to the West one day and spread his work there, he 
will send for me and I shall have to travel with him ! L 

Such is the result of my foolish attempt to take this man at 
his word. What can one say of soi-disant "divine teachers" 

1 He went to the West in due course, but his prediction as regards 

myself proved utterly fallacious. 


who promise an ecstasy of the spirit, but give instead an 
exasperation of the mind? 


Is it possible to find any acceptable explanation of Meher 
Baba's strange career and curious conduct? A superficial 
estimate of the man may easily dismiss him as a rogue or as a 
charlatan. This has been done, but does not explain several 
things in his life and is manifestly unjust. I prefer to accept 
the opinion of old Judge Khandalawalla, of Bombay, who has 
known Meher Baba since the latter was a boy, and who told 
me that the Parsee messiah was simply an honest but mistaken 
man. This explanation is good as far as it goes, but for me it 
does not go far enough. 

A little analysis of Meher Baba's character will make my 
theory more comprehensible. I have already mentioned that, 
at our first meeting near Ahmednagar, I was impressed by the 
peace and gentleness of his attitude. But observation during 
my stay at Nasik revealed, through everyday incidents, that this 
was the calmness of a weak character and the gentleness of a 
frail physique. I discovered that he is really an irresolute man, 
influenced by others and by circumstances. His small pointed 
chin is eloquent on this point. Moreover, sudden unaccount- 
able impulses mark his conduct. He is obviously a highly 
emotional man. His passion for the theatrical, his childish but 
Oriental fondness for spectacular demonstrations also evidence 
the fact that he loves to dramatize himself. He seems to live 
more for an audience than for himself. And although he claims 
to have appeared on the stage of life in a serious part, those who 
see only an element of comedy in his acting are not wholly to 

My own theory is that the old Muhammedan woman faqueer, 
Hazrat Babajan, did really create an upheaval in Meher Baba's 
character that upset his equilibrium, in fact, so completely 
as to precipitate him into a condition which neither he nor those 
around him understand. My own experience with the remark- 
able lady, brief though it was, convinces me that she possessed 
some strange power sufficient to startle the most hide-bound 
rationalist. I do not know why Hazrat Babajan should have 
suddenly intervened in Meher Baba's career, swept him off 
at a tangent and started him on a course whose outcome - 
whether merely farcical or really momentous - we have yet to 


witness. But I do know that she was quite capable of doing to 
him something which, metaphorically speaking, took the earth 
from under his feet. 

The kiss which she gave him was nothing in itself, but 
became important as the symbolic conveyance of her psychic 
inner grace. The peculiar cerebral condition which he 
developed as a result is significant in view of his later history. 
"My mind received a great shock which caused it violent 
vibrations for some time," he told me once in reference to this 
event. He was clearly quite unprepared for it. He had gone 
through no training and no discipline to fit himself for what 
might be tantamount to a Yogic initiation. "When I was a 
friend of Baba in his youth," said his disciple Abdullah, "I 
never found him interested in religion or philosophy. He 
was always keener on sports, games and fun. He played a 
principal part in our school debates and activities. His sudden 
departure into spiritual matters took us by surprise." 

I believe that the youthful Meher became quite unbalanced 
as a result of this unexpected experience. This was obvious 
enough when he fell into a condition of semi-idiocy and 
behaved like a human robot, but it is not so obvious now that 
he has recovered sanity. I do not believe that he has returned 
to normality as a human being. To some people, a sudden 
overdose of religion, Yogic trance, or mystic ecstasy is as 
unbalancing as a sudden overdose of certain drugs. In short, 
I believe that Meher Baba has not yet recovered from the first 
intoxication of his exalted mood, and a lack of balance still 
exists as a result of the tremendous derangement which 
occurred to his mental faculties at such an early age. On no 
other hypothesis can I account for the extraordinary behaviour 
which he manifests from time to time. 

He shows, on the one hand, all the qualities of a mystic - 
love, gentleness, religious intuition, and so on, but on the other 
hand he shows signs of the mental disease of paranoia. He 
exaggerates everything which pertains to his own self. This 
condition is also found among religious enthusiasts who 
experience sudden but temporary states of ecstasy. They 
emerge with the awareness that something colossal has happened 
to them. It is only another step for them to make unwarranted 
claims to spiritual greatness, and so they begin to found new 
cults or to set up queer societies with themselves at the head. 
The deification of self, the belief that they are messiahs 
destined to save all mankind, is the final step taken by the 
audacious few. 


In India I find that there are men who want the exalted 
consciousness which Yoga promises its votaries, but are 
unwilling to pay the price in training and discipline which it 
demands. So they take drugs, such as opium and hasheesh, 
and thus obtain a colourable imitation of that transcendental 
consciousness. I have watched the behaviour of these drug 
addicts and discovered that one quality (or vice) is common to 
all of them. They exaggerate tremendously the small or great 
phenomena of their lives, and will tell you outright lies in the 
firm belief that they are telling you the truth! Hence the 
development of paranoia, which is an exaggeration of self- 
consciousness to the point of complete delusion. 

The drug addict may notice a woman glance carelessly at 
him. At once he weaves a whole romance with her in his mind. 
His world revolves entirely around his own glorified self. He 
will make such fantastic assertions about his own wonderful 
powers that one wonders whether he is in full possession of 
his faculties. And his actions spring out of sudden, inexplicable 

Some of the unbalanced qualities which mark the characters 
and lives of such unfortunate persons, also mark the character 
and life of Meher Baba, but with this qualification - he never 
descends into the evil depths it is possible for them to fall into, 
because the origin of his abnormality is not drugs, but a 
spiritual and benign experience. To borrow a phrase from 
Nietzsche, the Parsee messiah is " human, all-too-human." 

Much ado is made in regard to the time when he will break 
his silence. One wonders whether he will ever dare to do so, 
but it needs no great discernment to see that his voice, if at 
long last it comes forth, will fall futile upon the world's ears. 
Words cannot work miracles. His rash prophecies may or 
may not be realized; what matters is that the prophet himself 
has proved unreliable: his promises are not kept, his predic- 
tions are not realized, and his conduct is both egotistic and 
erratic. He fails to illustrate in himself the high message which 
he proposes to convey - to others. The message of such a man 
must necessarily fall on deaf and unheeding ears. 

What of his ardent followers? Will Time come with cold 
hands and undeceive them? That is unlikely. The story of 
Meher Baba is a typical story of Indian credulity and provides 
a handy illustration of the strength of this defect in Indian 
character. India suffers from the defects of an illiterate and 
over-religious race, untrained in those scientific modes of 
thought which demand the divorce of emotion from reason, 


history from hearsay, and fact from imagination. It is easy 
enough to gather a flock of enthusiastic followers, whether 
from sincere aspirants, foolish and inexperienced persons, or 
those who deem it wise to attach themselves and their fortunes 
to stars of greater magnitude than themselves. 

I have neither the space nor the patience to point them out, 
but it is a fact that Meher Baba has committed blunders at 
every step of his career. So have I. But he claims to be a 
divinely inspired messiah, whereas I am only too painfully 
aware of my limitations as an ordinary mortal. My point is 
that his followers will never admit that Meher Baba can 
commit blunders. Always they naively assume that some 
mysterious esoteric purpose lies behind everything he says or 
does. They are content to follow blindly, as indeed they must, 
for reason soon rebels at what they have to swallow. My own 
experience with him only tended to confirm and deepen that 
cynicism which has taken the allegiance of so much of my life, 
and to strengthen that radical scepticism which hid the inner 
sensitivity that guided my wanderings around this sub- 

All over the East there have been recurring hints of a coming 
event which is to prove the greatest thing history has given us 
for many hundred years. The prophecy of a Coming rears its 
head among the brown faces of India, the stocky people of 
Tibet, the almond-eyed masses of China, and the old grey- 
beards of Africa. To the vivid and devout Oriental imagination, 
the hour is ripe and our restless time bears outward portent 
of the near approach of this event. What more natural than 
for Meher Baba to regard his sudden psychological change as 
an indication of his own messianic destiny? What more 
natural than his fondly cherished belief that one day he will 
announce himself to an awe stricken world? What more 
natural than for his own obedient flock to take it upon them- 
selves to spread the news of their messiah's advent? Neverthe- 
less one is compelled to condemn the theatrical methods 
which he has used. No great religious teacher worthy the 
name has ever used them, or is ever likely to break the spiritual 
etiquette of thousands of centuries. I have a shrewd suspicion 
as to what form the future vagaries of this spectacular " saint " 
will take. But time will reveal them for the world's entertain- 
ment better than the present writer. 

And as this long reflection draws to an end, I realize that I 
need not deny that many high and sublime sayings have been 
communicated through the lithe fingers of Meher Baba. But, 


when he descends from his religious inspirations, as descend 
he must, and stoops to talk of his own personal greatness and 
personal fortunes, it is time to put on one's shoes again. For 
the future leader of mankind is then likely to become its 

' Meher Baba has since appeared in the West and a Western cult 
has started to gather around him. He still promises wonderful things, 
which will happen when he breaks his silence. He has several times 
visited England, has acquired a following in France, Spain and Turkey, 
and has been twice to Persia. He made a theatrical journey across 
the continent of America with a mixed retinue of men and women. 
When he arrived in Hollywood, he was given a royal reception. 
Mary Pickford entertained him in her home, Tallulah Bankhead 
became interested in him, while a thousand leading people were 
presented to him at Hollywood's largest hotel. A large tract of land 
was acquired in the United States to establish his Western head- 
quarters. Meanwhile dumbness still lies upon his lips, the while he 
flits impulsively from country to country on brief visits. At last he 
has been brought into the glare of notoriety. 



I WANDER about Western India for the second time in a 
leisurely and indeterminate manner. Tired of travelling 
in dusty railway trains and seatless bullock-carts, I take 
to an old, but sturdy touring car with a Hindu who plays the 
threefold part of companion, chauffeur and servant. 

We move on through several changes of scenery, while the 
miles speed away under our tyres. In the forest areas the 
chauffeur stops at nightfall, if unable to reach a village in time, 
and halts till dawn breaks. Throughout the night he keeps a 
large fire burning, feeding it with twigs and bushes. He 
assures me that the flames will keep wild beasts from approach- 
ing us. Leopards and panthers haunt the forests, but such is 
the fear which a simple fire seems to inspire in them that they 
keep at a respectful distance. Not so the jackals. Among the 
hills we hear their lugubrious barking quite close to us at 
times. And during the daytime we meet on occasions with 
vultures soaring out of their eyries into the brassy sky. 

Late one afternoon, while we are motoring along a road 
which is thickly covered with dust, we overtake a queer couple 
sitting by the wayside. One is a middle-aged holy man, 
crouching on his hams and apparently contemplating his navel 
under the thin shade of some scanty-leaved bushes; the other 
is his youthful attendant, probably a disciple. The older man's 
hands are joined, his eyes are half-shut in meditation, and he 
sits perfectly unmoved as we pass. We do not succeed in 
winning so much as a glance from him, although his youthful 
devotee stares in a dull way at our car. Something in the man's 
face attracts me and decides me to stop a little way off. My 
Hindu companion goes back to question them and I watch 
him nervously approach the couple. At length he gets into a 
lengthy conversation with the young man. 

When he returns he informs me, amongst a multitude of 
trivial details, that the couple are indeed master and disciple, 



that the older man's name is Chandi Das, and that according 
to the youngster's tribute, he is a Yogi gifted with exceptional 
faculties. They are wandering from village to village and have 
already covered a great distance, partly on foot and partly by 
train, since they left their native Bengal nearly two years ago. 

I offer them a lift which they immediately accept, the older 
man with benign grace and the younger one with impulsive 
gratitude. And so, half an hour later, the car deposits a 
strangely mixed crew in the next village, where we resolve to 
spend the night. 

No other soul has been in sight on the route except, when 
nearing the village, a boy tending a small herd of scraggy cows. 
The afternoon is drawing to its end as we stand beside the 
village well and drink some refreshing though dubiously 
coloured liquid. The forty or fifty huts and cottages which 
make up the village's single straggling street, with their 
unevenly thatched grass roofs, low irregular mud walls and 
rough bamboo uprights, depress me a little with their squalid 
appearance. A few inhabitants squat in the shade before their 
unattractive dwellings. A grey, sad woman with half-hidden 
shrivelled breasts approaches the well, stares at us, fills her 
brass pitcher with water, and sets out for home again. 

My Hindu companion collects the things for making tea 
and goes off in search of the village headman's house. The 
Yogi and his faithful attendant-disciple squat in the dust and 
rest. The former knows no English, and I have already 
discovered in the car that the latter possesses a smattering of 
the language, though hardly adequate enough to carry on a 
proper conversation. After a few attempts I found it more 
profitable to wait until we could all settle down in the evening 
for the interview I am determined to secure, when I can call 
on the services of my Hindu interpreter. 

Meanwhile a little group of men, women and children has 
collected around us. These inhabitants of the interior seldom 
come into contact with Europeans. I have often found it an 
interesting experience to talk to some of them, if only for the 
unsophisticated and innocent view-point of life which such 
talks disclose. The children are shy at first, but I win them by 
distributing a few annas. They regard my alarm watch with 
incredulous wonder and naive delight, as I set the dial and let 
the little peals ring forth for their benefit. 

A woman approaches the Yogi, prostrates herself before him 
in the open street, touches his feet and then puts her fingers to 
her own forehead. 


My Hindu servant returns with the headman and with the 
announcement that tea is ready. He is a college graduate, but is 
quite content to act as bearer, chauffeur and interpreter, for he 
is seeking to fathom my Western experience and lives in the 
constant hope that one day I will take him to Europe. I treat 
him as a companion and with that friendliness which I feel his 
good intelligence and character deserve. 

Meanwhile someone has captured the Yogi and his disciple 
and taken them off to a hut for hospitality. Certainly these 
village folk are kindlier than their brethren of the towns. 

As we walk down to the headman's house, I watch the west 
reddenning behind the distant hills as an orange sun flickers 
out its life. We halt at a superior-looking cottage, and inside I 
take the opportunity of thanking the headman. 

"The honour of your visit overwhelms me," he replies 

We rest awhile after the tea. The shadows of a brief twilight 
now lie across the fields and I can hear the cattle being driven 
into the village for the night. Later my servant goes out to 
visit the Yogi and succeeds in preparing the way for me. He 
leads me to the door of one of the humbler huts. 

I enter the square, low-roofed room and my feet tread an 
earthen floor. Hardly any furniture is to be seen, though a few 
clay pots lie around the rude hearth. A bamboo pole stuck into 
the wall acts as a kind of wardrobe, for clothes and rags hang 
upon it. One corner is graced with a brass water-jug. I think 
how bare the place looks in the pale light of the primitive lamp. 
Such are the cheerless comforts of a poorer peasant's home. 

The Yogi's disciple greets me with his broken English, but 
his master is not visible. The latter has been called to the side 
of an ailing mother for his blessing. I wait for his return. 

At length there is a sound outside in the street and then a 
tall figure appears on the threshold. He enters the room 
gravely. Seeing me, he makes a gesture of acknowledgment 
and murmurs some words. My bearer whispers the translation: 

"Greetings, sahib. May the gods protect you!" 

He refuses my offer of a cotton blanket to squat on and drops 
to the floor, where he crosses his legs. We confront each other, 
and I take the opportunity to study him more closely. The 
man before me is probably fifty years of age, though the short 
rugged beard on his chin gives him an older appearance. His 
hair hangs down in tangled strands to his neck; his mouth is 
serious and always unsmiling. But what struck me most when 
we first met strikes me anew at this moment - the strange 


glitter of his coal-black eyes, their lustrous brilliance. I know 
that such unearthly eyes will continue to haunt me for days. 

"You have travelled far? " he asks quietly. 

I nod assent. 

"What do you think of the Master Mahasaya? " he demands 

I am startled. How has he come to know that I have been 
to his native Bengal and visited Mahasaya in Calcutta? I gaze 
at him for a while in bewilderment and then recall myself to his 

"He is a man who has won my heart," I reply. "But why 
do you ask?" 

He ignores my counter-question. There is an embarrassing 
silence. I try to keep up the conversation by saying: 

"I am looking forward to seeing him again when I revisit 
Calcutta. Does he know you? Shall I carry your greetings? " 

The Yogi shakes his head firmly. 

"You will never see Mahasaya again. Even now Yama, the 
god of death, is calling to his spirit." 

Another pause. And then I tell him: 

"lam interested in the lives and thoughts of Yogis. Will 
you not tell me how you came to be one and what wisdom you 
have gained?" 

Chandi Das does not encourage my attempt to interview him. 

"The past is but a heap of ashes," he answers. " Do not 
ask me to poke my finger in the ashes and pick out dead 
experiences. I live neither in the past nor the future. In the 
depths of the human spirit, these things are no more real than 
shadows. That also is the wisdom I have learnt." 

This is disconcerting. His stiff hieratic attitude upsets my 

"But we who live in the world of time must take account of 
them," I object. 

" Time? " he queries. "Are you sure there is such a thing? " 

I fear that our talk is becoming fantastic. Does this man 
really possess the wonderful gifts which his disciple claims on 
his behalf? Aloud I say: 

"If time did not exist, then the past and the future would 
both be here now. But experience tells us to the contrary." 

"So? What you mean is that your experience, the world's 
experience, tells you that!" 

"Surely, you do not suggest that you have a different 
experience of the matter? " 

"There is truth in your talk," comes the strange answer. 


"Am I to understand that the future shows itself to 

"I live in the eternal," replies Chandi Das. "I never seek 
to discover the events that coming years will pass over my 

"But you can for others?" 

"If I wish - yes! " 

I am determined to get the thing clear in my mind. 

"Then you can give them an understanding of events which 
are yet to happen?" 

"Only in part. The lives of men do not move so smoothly 
that every detail is ordained for them." 

"Then will you reveal that part of my future which you can 

"Wherefore do you seek to know these things?" 

I hesitate. 

"God has not dropped a veil over what is to come without 
fit cause," continues the other man almost sternly. 

What can I say? And then an inspiration comes. 

"Grave problems vex my mind. In the hope of finding 
some light upon them I have come to your land. Perhaps in 
what you can tell me there may be guidance for my feet, or 
perhaps I shall know whether I have come on a fruitless 

The Yogi turns his shining black eyes upon me. In the 
silence which ensues I am impressed once more by the grave 
dignity of this man. He seems so profound, so pontifically 
wise as he sits there with folded legs and interlocked feet, as to 
transcend his mean surroundings in this poor hut of a remote 
jungle village. 

I notice, for the first time, a lizard watching us from the upper 
part of a wall. Its bead-like eyes never leave us, and its 
grotesquely wide mouth is so fantastic that I almost believe it is 
grinning wickedly at me. 

At last Chandi Das finds his voice. 

"I am not adorned with the polished jewels of learning, but 
if you will listen to what I have to say, then your journey will 
not be fruitless. Go back to the same place where you started 
your Indian journey and, before a new moon will have risen, 
you shall have your desire satisfied." 

"Do you mean that I should return to Bombay?" 
"You speak rightly." 

I am puzzled. What can that hybrid half- Western city hold 
for me? 


"But I have never found anything there to help me on my 
quest," I protest. 

Chandi Das looks at me coolly. 

"There is your path. Follow it as quickly as your heels can 
carry you. Lose no time, but hasten back to Bombay 

"Is that all you can tell me? " 

"There is more, but I have not troubled to perceive it." 

He reverts to silence. His eyes become as expressionless as 
still water. A while later he speaks: 

"You will leave India and return to the Western lands before 
the next equinox. A grievous illness will fall upon your body 
almost as soon as you leave our soil. The spirit will struggle in 
the wracked body, but not yet is its hour of escape. And then 
the hidden work of destiny will come to light, for it will send 
you back to Aryavarta (India) so that in all you visit us thrice. 
A sage awaits you even now and for his sake, since you are tied 
to him by ancient threads, you will come back to dwell among 
us." 1 

His voice stops and a faint tremor passes across his eyelids. 
When, later, he looks directly at me, he adds: 

"You have heard. There is nothing more to say." 

The rest of our talk is desultory and unimportant. Chandi 
Das refuses to enter into further discussion about himself, so 
that I am left wondering how to receive his strange words, 
although I feel that there is more behind them. 

There is an amusing moment when, in the course of a brief 
conversation with his youthful disciple, the latter asks me 

" Do you not see such things among the Yogis of England? " 

I try to restrain a smile. 

"There are no Yogis in that country," I answer. 

Everyone else has sat still and silent throughout the evening, 
but when the Yogi signifies that the interview is over, the owner 
of the hut, a peasant probably, approaches us and asks if we will 
share his humble meal with him. I tell him that we have 
brought some food in the car and that we will go over to the 
headman's house to cook it, since the headman had promised 
to accommodate us in a room of his house for the night. But 
the peasant replies that he will not have it said that he has for- 
gotten how to be hospitable. I tell him that I have eaten well 
to-day and beg him not to trouble. However, he is firm and 
insistent, so, rather than disappoint him, I accept. 

1 Time has written its confirmation of the first half of this prediction. 


"It ill becomes me to receive a guest and give him no food," 
he remarks, when he offers a dish of fried grain. 

I look through the barred hole which serves as a window. 
The opal crescent of the moon thrusts a pale light through the 
hole as I reflect upon the superior character and kindliness 
which one finds so often in these simple, illiterate peasants. No 
college education, no business acumen can compensate for the 
degeneration of character which so often marks the folk of the 

And when I have taken farewell of Chandi Das and his 
disciple, the peasant lifts the cheap lantern which hangs from a 
narrow beam in the roof and accompanies us to the street. I 
reassure him, so he touches his forehead, smiles, and stands in 
the open doorway. I follow in the wake of my servant, each of 
us flashing a torch, towards our place of rest for the night. 
Sleep eludes me; for, mingling with my thoughts of the mys- 
terious Yogi from Bengal are the eerie cries of jackals and the 
peculiar long howl of a pariah dog. 


If I do not follow the counsel of Chandi Das to the strict 
letter, at least I turn the car's radiator towards Bombay and 
make a gradual return to that city. When I succeed in arriving 
there and installing myself in a hotel, I succeed also in falling ill. 

Cooped up between four walls, tired in mind and sick in 
body, I begin to develop, for the first time, a pessimistic out- 
look. I begin to feel that I have had enough of India. I have 
covered many thousands of miles of travel in this country, and 
occasionally under dismal conditions. The India I have been 
seeking is not to be found in the European quarters, where 
wining, dining, dancing, bridge and whisky-and-sodas make up 
the pattern of an attractive picture. Sojourn in the Indian 
quarters of towns, whenever decently possible, has helped me 
in my quest, but has not improved my health, while sojourn in 
up-country districts and jungle villages, with unsuitable food 
and bad water, unsettled life and tropical sleeplessness, has 
proved itself dangerous. My body is now a weary burden 
flung on a bed of pain. 

I wonder how much longer I can stave off a breakdown. I 
have grown heavy-eyed with lack of sleep. For months I have 
been unable to exorcise this wraith of insomnia which has 
relentlessly pursued me throughout this land. And the need to 


walk warily between the strange types of men with whom I have 
come into contact has played sad havoc with my nerves. The 
necessity of keeping a careful inner balance, of being critical 
and yet receptive at the same time, while penetrating the 
unfamiliar circles of India's secret hinterland, has imposed a 
prolonged strain upon me. I have had to learn how to pick my 
way between genuine sages and fools who mistake their egotistic 
fancies for divine knowledge, between true religious mystics 
and mere mystery-mongers, between pseudo holy men working 
black magic and true followers of the way of Yoga. And I have 
had to cram and concentrate my investigations into minimum 
time, for I cannot afford to spend years out of a life upon a 
single quest. 

If my physical and mental condition is bad, my spiritual 
state is little better. I am disheartened by a sense of failure. 
True, I have met some men of remarkable attainments and fine 
character, as well as others who can do amazing things, but I 
have not settled down to any positive inward recognition that 
here is the spiritual superman of my quest, the master who 
appeals to my rationalistic make-up and to whom I can gladly 
attach myself. Enthusiastic disciples have vainly endeavoured 
to draw me into their own teachers' folds, but I can see that, 
just as youth takes its first adolescent adventure as the last 
measure of love, so these good folk have been so thrilled by 
their early experiences that they have not thought to seek any 
farther. Besides, I have no desire to become the depository of 
another man's doctrines; it is a living, first-hand, personal 
experience which I seek, a spiritual illumination entirely my 
own and not someone else's. 

But, after all, I am only a humble and irresponsible scribe 
wandering in the East after abandoning his ambitions. Who 
am I to expect to be favoured with such a meeting? And so 
depression throws its heavy mantle around my heart. 

When I am well enough to drag my body around, I sit at the 
hotel table with an Army captain as my neighbour. He unfolds 
a long story of a sick wife, a slow recovery, cancelled leave 
arrangements, and so on. He makes my own morbidity worse. 
When we have finished and are out on the veranda, he sticks a 
long cigar in his mouth and mutters: 

"Some game - life, eh? " 

"Yes - some!" I agree laconically. 

Half an hour later I am in a taxi speeding along Hornby 
Road. We stop outside the tall, piazza-like facade of a shipping 
company's offices. I pay for my ticket with the consciousness 


that I have done the only possible thing in taking this sudden 
exit from India. 

Despising the grimy hovels, dusty shops, ornate palaces and 
efficient-looking office blocks which are Bombay, I return 
to my hotel room in order to continue my unhappy 

Evening comes. The waiter sets a delicious curry on the 
table, but the dinner repels me. I take a couple of iced drinks 
and then taxi across the city. I get out and saunter slowly 
along a street until I find myself standing in front of one of the 
West's gifts to urban India - a great, gaudy-faced cinema 
theatre. I pause awhile before its brightly lit entrance and 
study its flaringly coloured posters. 

Always fond of movies, they seem to offer to-night a welcome 
drink of the cup of Lethe. I do not imagine that I shall ever be 
completely forlorn while I can buy, for a rupee or its equivalent, 
a padded and plush-covered seat at a cinema in any city 
throughout the world. 

Inside I settle down to watch the inevitable fragments of 
American life turned into tabloids and flung in shadows upon a 
white screen. Once again there reappears a foolish wife and 
faithless husband, both moving on a background of palatial 
apartments. I try hard to fix my attention on them, but some- 
how find myself becoming increasingly bored. To my surprise I 
discover that the old zest for cinema pictures has suddenly 
deserted me. The tales of human passion, tragedy and comedy 
have strangely lost their power to sadden my heart or move me 
to laughter. 

Half-way through the show the screen figures flicker away 
into sheer unreality. My attention becomes quite abstracted 
and my thoughts fasten themselves once again upon my strange 
quest. I realize unexpectedly that I have become a pilgrim 
without a God, a wanderer from city to city and from village to 
village seeking a place where the mind may rest, but finding 
none. How I have gazed into the faces of many men, hoping 
to find the exotic lineaments of a spiritual superman who has 
cast the plumb-line of thought deeper than the men of my own 
land and time; how I have looked into the dark flashing eyes 
of other peoples, hoping to find a pair that will echo back the 
mysterious answer which will satisfy me! 

And then a peculiar tenseness arises in my brain and the 
atmosphere around me seems to be charged with potent 
electrical vibrations. I am aware that some profoundly 
dynamic psychic change is occurring within me. Suddenly a 


mental voice thrusts itself into the field of attention and forces 
me to listen, amazed, as it scornfully says to me: 

"Life itself is nothing more than a cinema play unrolling its 
episodes from the cradle to the grave. Where now are the past 
scenes - can you hold them? Where are those yet to come - 
can you grasp them? Instead of trying to find the Real, the 
Enduring, the Eternal, you come here and waste time on what 
is even more deceptive than ordinary existence - a wholly 
imaginary story, an illusion within the great illusion." 

Thereupon I lose the last shred of interest in the spinning 
film of human love and tragedy. To retain my seat any 
longer will be a farce. I rise and walk out of the theatre. 

I wander slowly and aimlessly through the street under the 
brilliant moon which, in the East, seems so close to man's life. 
At a corner a beggar approaches me, and I gaze into his face as 
he utters his first unrecognizable sound. I recoil in horror, for 
he is disfigured by a terrible disease, which has left the skin of 
his face clinging in patches to the bone. But a profound pity 
for this fellow-victim of life replaces my first disgust and I 
thrust all my loose change into his outstretched hand. 

I make my way to the seashore, to a lonelier part where one 
can remain untroubled by the motley crowds of varied races 
which throng the Back Bay promenade each night. Gazing at 
the stars, which form a beautiful canopy to this city, I realize 
that I have reached an unexpected crisis. 


Within a few days my ship will head its way to Europe and 
slide through the greenish-blue waters of the Arabian Sea. 
Once on board I shall bid farewell to philosophy and toss my 
Oriental quest into the waters of oblivion. No longer shall I 
give all that I have to offer - time, thought, energy, money - 
upon the altar of a search for supposititious masters. 

But the inescapable mental voice persists in troubling me 

"Fool!" it flings scornfully at me. "So this is to be the 
empty result of years of investigation and aspiration ! You are 
to tread the same road as other men, to forget all you have 
learnt, to drown your better feelings in hard egotism and 
sensuality? But take care! Your apprenticeship to life has 
been served with terrible masters; unending thought has 
stripped the veneer off existence, ceaseless activity has lashed 


you with its whip, and spiritual loneliness has segregated your 
soul. Think you that you can escape the results of such an 
indenture? Not so, for it has put invisible chains on your 

I see-saw from one mood to another, the while I stare at 
the thick star-clusters which overpower the Oriental sky. I 
seek to defend myself against the merciless psychic voice, 
pleading my helplessness in the face of failure. 
The voice answers: 

"Are you sure none of the men you met here in India can 
be the Master you seek? " 

A long gallery of faces passes before my mind's eye. Quick- 
tempered Northern faces, placid Southern ones, nervous 
emotional Eastern faces and strong silent Mahratti faces from 
the West: friendly faces, foolish faces, wise faces, dangerous 
faces, evil faces and inscrutable ones. 

A single face disentangles itself out of the procession and 
persistently hovers before me, its eyes quietly gazing into mine. 
It is the calm, Sphinx-like countenance of the Maharishee, the 
sage who has spent his life on the Hill of the Holy Beacon in 
the South. I have never forgotten him; indeed, a tender 
thought of the Maharishee has arisen for a brief life again and 
again, but the abrupt character of my experiences, the whirling 
panorama of faces and events and the sudden changes which 
came during my quest have deeply overlaid the impressions of 
my short period with him. 

Yet I realize now that he has passed through my life like a 
star, which moves across the dark void with its lonely light and 
then is gone. And I have to admit, in answer to my inner 
questioner, that he is the one man who has impressed me more 
than any other person I have ever met, whether in the East or 
West. But he had seemed so aloof, so remote from a European 
mentality, and so indifferent whether I became his pupil or not. 

The silent voice now grips me with its intensity. 

"How can you be sure that he was indifferent? You did not 
stay long, but hurried away." 

"Yes," I confess, feebly. "I had to carry out my self- 
imposed programme. What else could I do?" 

"There is one thing you can do now. Go back to him." 

"How can I force myself upon him?" 

"Your personal feelings are of less importance than success 
in this search. Go back to the Maharishee." 

"He is at the other end of India and I am too ill to start my 
wanderings again." 


"What does that matter? If you want a Master you must 
pay the price." 

"I doubt whether I want one now, for I feel too tired to 
want anything. Anyway, I have booked a steamer berth and 
must sail in three days; it is too late to alter things." 

The voice almost sneers at me. 

"Too late, eh? What has happened to your sense of values? 
You admit that the Maharishee is the most wonderful man 
you ever met, but you are quite willing to run away from him 
before you have hardly tried to know him. Return to him." 

I remain sullen and obstinate. The brain answers " Yes," 
but the blood says "No!" 

Once more the voice urges me: 

"Change your plans again. You must go back to the 

Thereupon something surges up from the inner depths of my 
being and demands immediate assent to the command of that 
inexplicable voice. It overwhelms me and so forcibly does it 
master my reason-born objections and the protests of my 
enfeebled body that I become as a babe in its hands. Through 
all this sudden overpowering urgency which asks my instant 
return to the Maharishee, I see his summoning irresistible 
eyes in a most vivid manner. 

I cease all further argument with the inner voice, because I 
know that I am now helpless in its hands. I shall travel at once 
to the Maharishee and, if he accepts me, entrust myself to his 
tutelage. I shall hitch my wagon to his shining star. The die 
is cast. Something has conquered me, though I do not 
understand what it is. 

I return to the hotel, mop my brow and sip a cup of lukewarm 
tea. As I drink it I realize that I am a changed man. I am 
conscious that my dark burden of wretchedness and doubt is 
falling from my shoulders. 

Next morning I come down to breakfast aware that I am 
smiling for the first time since I came back to Bombay. The 
tall bearded Sikh servant, resplendent in white jacket, golden 
cummerbund and white trousers, smiles back in response as 
he stands with folded arms behind my chair. Then he says: 

"A letter for you, sir." 

I look at the cover. It has been twice readdressed and has 
followed me from place to place. As I take my seat I slit it 

To my delight and surprise I discover that it has been 
written in the hermitage at the foot of the Hill of the Holy 


Beacon. Its writer, once a prominent public man and Member 
of the Madras Legislative Council, has withdrawn from 
worldly affairs following a tragic domestic bereavement and 
become a disciple of the Maharishee, whom he visits on 
occasions. I had met him and we were engaged in a desultory 

The letter is full of encouraging thoughts and suggests 
that I shall be welcome if I care to revisit the hermitage. 
When I finish reading it one sentence flames out in memory 
so as to obliterate the others. 

"You have had the good fortune to meet a real Master," it 

I treat the letter as an omen favourable to my new-born 
decision to return to the Maharishee. A ride down to the 
shipping offices follows breakfast, and I leave the intimation 
that I am not sailing. 

It is not long before I bid adieu to Bombay and carry out my 
new plan. I cross hundreds of miles of flat colourless Deccan 
tableland, with long stretches where solitary bamboo trees 
alone rear their leafy heads to vary the scene. The train cannot 
roll through the scanty grass and occasional trees of this Indian 
prairie fast enough for me. As it flies jokingly along the rails, 
I feel that I am speeding towards a great occasion - spiritual 
enlightenment and the most mysterious personality I have 
ever encountered. For as I look out of the screened compart- 
ment window, my slumbering hopes of discovering a Rishee, 
a spiritual superman, awaken once more. 

When, on the second day, we have covered over a thousand 
miles and have begun to enter the placid Southern landscape, 
broken by a few red hills, I feel strangely happy. And when we 
leave the torrid plains behind, I find the dank, steamy heat of 
Madras City positively welcome, for it means that I have 
broken the back of my journey. 

After leaving the South Mahratta Company's terminus, I 
have to cross the scattered town in order to change on to the 
South Indian Railway. Finding that I have a few hours to 
spare before the train starts, I use the time to make some 
necessary purchases and to have a hurried chat with the 
Indian author who introduced me to His Holiness Shri 
Shankara, the spiritual head of South India. 

He greets me warmly, and when I inform him that I am on 
the way to the Maharishee, the writer exclaims: 

"I am not surprised! That is what I expected." 

I am taken aback, but ask him: 


" Why do you say that?" 

He smiles. 

"My friend, do you not remember how we parted from His 
Holiness in the town of Chingleput? Did you not notice that 
he whispered something to me in the ante-room just before we 

"Yes, now that you remind me, I certainly do remember 

The author's thin, refined face still keeps its smile. 

'This is what His Holiness told me. 'Your friend will 
travel all round India. He will visit many Yogis and listen to 
many teachers. But, in the end, he will have to return to the 
Maharishee. For him, the Maharishee alone is the right 

These words, coming as they do on the eve of my return, 
deeply impress me. They reveal the prophetic power of Shri 
Shankara more, they offer a kind of confirmation that I am 
taking the right course. 

How strange are the wanderings which my stars have 
imposed upon me. 



THERE are moments unforgettable which mark them- 
selves in golden figures upon the calendar of our 
years. Such a moment comes to me now, as I walk 
into the hall of the Maharishee. 

He sits as usual upon the magnificent tiger-skin which 
covers the centre of his divan. The joss-sticks burn slowly 
away on a little table near him, spreading the penetrating 
fragrance of incense around the hall. Not to-day is he remote 
from men and wrapped up in some trance-like spiritual 
absorption, as on that strange occasion when I first visited him. 
His eyes are clearly open to this world and glance at me compre- 
hendingly as I bow, and his mouth is stretched in a kindly 
smile of welcome. 

Squatting at a respectful distance from their master are a 
few disciples; otherwise the long hall is bare. One of them 
pulls the punkah-fan, which flaps lazily through the heavy 

In my heart I know that I come as one seeking to take up the 
position of a disciple, and that there will be no rest for my mind 
until I hear the Maharishee's decision. It is true that I live 
in a great hope of being accepted, for that which sent me 
scurrying out of Bombay to this place came as an absolute 
command, a decisive and authoritative injunction from a 
supernormal region. In a few words I dispose of the pre- 
liminary explanations, and then put my request briefly and 
bluntly to the Maharishee. 

He continues to smile at me, but says nothing. 

I repeat my question with some emphasis. 

There is another protracted pause, but at length he answers 
me, disdaining to call for the services of an interpreter and 
expressing himself directly in English. 

"What is all this talk of masters and disciples? All these 
differences exist only from the disciple's standpoint. To the 



one who has realized the true self there is neither master 
nor disciple. Such a one regards all people with equal 

I am slightly conscious of an initial rebuff, and though I press 
my request in other ways the Maharishee refuses to yield on 
the point. But in the end he does say: 

"You must find the master within you, within your own 
spiritual self. You must regard his body in the same way that 
he himself regards it; the body is not his true self." 

It begins to voice itself in my thoughts that the Maharishee 
is not to be drawn into giving me a direct affirmative response, 
and that the answer I seek must be found in some other way, 
doubtless in the subtle, obscure manner at which he hints. 
So I let the matter drop and our talk then turns to the outward 
and material side of my visit. 

I spend the afternoon making some arrangements for a 
protracted stay. 


The ensuing weeks absorb me into a strange, unwonted life. 
My days are spent in the hall of the Maharishee, where I 
slowly pick up the unrelated fragments of his wisdom and the 
faint clues to the answer I seek; my nights continue as hereto- 
fore in torturing sleeplessness, with my body stretched out on 
a blanket laid on the hard earthen floor of a hastily built 

This humble abode stands about three hundred feet away 
from the hermitage. Its thick walls are composed of thinly 
plastered earth, but the roof is solidly tiled to withstand the 
monsoon rains. The ground around it is virgin bush, some- 
what thickly overgrown, being in fact the fringe of the jungle 
which stretches away to the west. The rugged landscape 
reveals Nature in all her own wild uncultivated grandeur. 
Cactus hedges are scattered numerously and irregularly around, 
the spines of these prickly plants looking like coarse needles. 
Beyond them the jungle drops a curtain of scrub bush and 
stunted trees upon the land. To the north rises the gaunt 
figure of the mountain, a mass of metallic-tinted rocks and 
brown soil. To the south lies a long pool, whose placid water 
has attracted me to the spot, and whose banks are bordered 
with clumps of trees holding families of grey and brown 


Each day is a duplicate of the one before. I rise early in the 
mornings and watch the jungle dawn turn from grey to green 
and then to gold. Next comes a plunge into the water and a 
swift swim up and down the pool, making as much noise as I 
possibly can so as to scare away lurking snakes. Then, 
dressing, shaving, and the only luxury I can secure in this 
place - three cups of deliciously refreshing tea. 

"Master, the pot of tea-water is ready," says Rajoo, my hired 
boy. From an initial total ignorance of the English language, 
he has acquired that much, and more, under my occasional 
tuition. As a servant he is a gem, for he will scour up and down 
the little township with optimistic determination in quest of the 
strange articles and foods for which his Western employer 
speculatively sends him, or he will hover outside the Mahari- 
shee's hall in discreet silence during meditation hours should 
he happen to come along for orders at such times. But as a 
cook he is unable to comprehend Western taste, which seems a 
queer distorted thing to him. After a few painful experiments I 
myself take charge of the more serious culinary arrangements, 
reducing my labour by reducing my solid meals to a single one 
each day. Tea, taken thrice daily, becomes both my solitary 
earthly joy and the mainstay of my energy. Rajoo stands in the 
sunshine and watches with wonderment my addiction to the 
glorious brown brew. His body shines in the hard yellow light 
like polished ebony, for he is a true son of the black Dravidians, 
the primal inhabitants of India. 

After breakfast comes my quiet lazy stroll to the hermitage, a 
halt for a couple of minutes beside the sweet rose bushes in the 
compound garden, which is fenced in by bamboo posts, or 
a rest under the drooping fronds of palm trees whose heads 
are heavy with coconuts. It is a beautiful experience to 
wander around the hermitage garden before the sun has waxed 
in power and to see and smell the variegated flowers. 

And then I enter the hall, bow before the Maharishee, and 
quietly sit down on folded legs. I may read or write for a 
while, or engage in conversation with one or two of the other 
men, or tackle the Maharishee on some point, or plunge into 
meditation for an hour along the lines which the sage has 
indicated, although evening usually constitutes the time 
specially assigned to meditation in the hall. But whatever I am 
doing I never fail to become gradually aware of the mysterious 
atmosphere of the place, of the benign radiations which 
steadily percolate into my brain. I enjoy an ineffable tranquil- 
lity merely by sitting for a while in the neighbourhood of the 


Maharishee. By careful observation and frequent analysis I 
arrive in time at the complete certitude that a reciprocal inter- 
influence arises whenever our presences neighbour each other. 
The thing is most subtle. But it is quite unmistakable. 

At eleven I return to the hut for the midday meal and a rest 
and then go back to the hall to repeat my programme of the 
morning. I vary my meditations and conversations sometimes 
by roaming the countryside or descending on the little township 
to make further explorations of the colossal temple. 

From time to time the Maharishee unexpectedly visits me at 
the hut after finishing his own lunch. I seize the opportunity 
to plague him with further questions, which he patiently 
answers in terse epigrammatic phrases, clipped so short as 
rarely to constitute complete sentences. But once, when I 
propound some fresh problem, he makes no answer. Instead, 
he gazes out towards the jungle-covered hills which stretch to 
the horizon and remains motionless. Many minutes pass, but 
still his eyes are fixed, his presence remote. I am quite unable 
to discern whether his attention is being given to some invisible 
psychic being in the distance or whether it is being turned on 
some inward preoccupation. At first I wonder whether he has 
heard me, but in the tense silence which ensues, and which I 
feel unable or unwilling to break, a force greater than my 
rationalistic mind commences to awe me until it ends by 
overwhelming me. 

The realization forces itself through my wonderment that all 
my questions are moves in an endless game, the play of thoughts 
which possess no limit to their extent; that somewhere within 
me there is a well of certitude which can provide me with all the 
waters of truth I require; and that it will be better to cease my 
questioning and attempt to realize the tremendous potencies of 
my own spiritual nature. So I remain silent and wait. 

For almost half an hour the Maharishee's eyes continue to 
stare straight in front of him in a fixed, unmoving gaze. He 
appears to have forgotten me, but I am perfectly aware that the 
sublime realization which has suddenly fallen upon me is 
nothing else than a spreading ripple of telepathic radiation 
from this mysterious and imperturbable man. 

On another visit he finds me in a pessimistic mood. He tells 
me of the glorious goal which waits for the man who takes to 
the way he has shown. 

"But, Maharishee, this path is full of difficulties and I am 
so conscious of my own weaknesses," I plead. 

"That is the surest way to handicap oneself," he answers 


unmoved, "this burdening of one's mind with the fear of 
failure and the thought of one's failings." 

"Yet if it is true ? " I persist. 

"It is not true. The greatest error of a man is to think that 
he is weak by nature, evil by nature. Every man is divine and 
strong in his real nature. What are weak and evil are his 
habits, his desires and thoughts, but not himself." 

His words come as an invigorating tonic. They refresh and 
inspire me. From another man's lips, from some lesser and 
feebler soul, I would refuse to accept them at such worth and 
would persist in refuting them. But an inward monitor assures 
me that the sage speaks out of the depths of a great and authentic 
spiritual experience, and not as some theorizing philosopher 
mounted on the thin stilts of speculation. 

Another time, when we are discussing the West, I make the 

"It is easy for you to attain and keep spiritual serenity in this 
jungle retreat, where there is nothing to disturb or distract 

"When the goal is reached, when you know the Knower, 
there is no difference between living in a house in London and 
living in the solitude of a jungle," comes the calm rejoinder. 

And once I criticize the Indians for their neglect of material 
development. To my surprise the Maharishee frankly admits 
the accusation. 

"It is true. We are a backward race. But we are a people 
with few wants. Our society needs improving, but we are con- 
tented with much fewer things than your people. So to be 
backward is not to mean that we are less happy." 


How has the Maharishee arrived at the strange power and 
stranger outlook which he possesses? Bit by bit, from his own 
reluctant lips and from those of his disciples, I piece together a 
fragmentary pattern of his life story. 

He was born in 1879 in a village about thirty miles distant 
from Madura, which is a noted South Indian town possessing 
one of the largest temples in the country. His father followed 
some avocation connected with law and came of good Brahmin 
stock. His father appears to have been an extremely charitable 
man who fed and clothed many poor persons. The boy 
eventually passed to Madura to carry on his education, and it 


was here that he picked up the rudiments of English from some 
American missionaries who were conducting a school. 

At first young Ramana was fond of play and sport. He 
wrestled, boxed and swam dangerous rivers. He betrayed no 
special interest in religious or philosophical concerns. The 
only exceptional thing in his life at the time was a tendency to 
somnambulism or sleep-walking, and to a condition of sleep so 
profound that the most disturbing interruptions could not 
awaken him. His schoolmates eventually discovered this and 
took advantage of it to sport with him. During the daytime 
they were afraid of his quick punch, but at night they would 
come into his bedroom, take him into the playground, beat his 
body and box his ears, and then lead him back to bed. He was 
quite unconscious of these experiences and had no remembrance 
of them in the mornings. 

The psychologist who has correctly understood the nature 
of sleep will find in this account of the boy's abnormal depth of 
attention, sufficient indication of the mystical nature which he 

One day a relative came to Madura and, in answer to 
Ramana's question, mentioned that he had just returned from a 
pilgrimage to the temple of Arunachala. The name stirred 
some slumbering depths in the boy's mind, thrilling him with 
peculiar expectations which he could not understand. He 
enquired as to the whereabouts of this temple and ever after 
found himself haunted by thoughts of it. It seemed to be of 
paramount importance to him, yet he could not even explain to 
himself why Arunachala should mean anything more to him 
than the dozens of other great temples which are scattered over 

He continued his studies at the mission school without 
showing any special aptitude for them, although he always 
evinced a fair degree of intelligence in his work. But when he 
was seventeen, destiny, with swift and sudden stroke, got into 
action and thrust its hands through the even tenor of his days. 

He suddenly left the school and completely abandoned all his 
studies. He gave no notice to his teachers or to his relatives, 
and told no one before the event actually occurred. What was 
the reason of this unpromising change, which cast a cloud upon 
his future worldly prospects? 

The reason was satisfying enough to himself, though it 
might have seemed mind-perplexing to others. For life, which 
in the ultimate is the teacher of men, set the young student on 
another course than that which his school-teachers had assigned 


him. And the change came in a curious way about six weeks 
before he dropped his studies and disappeared from Madura 
for ever. 

He was sitting alone one day in his room when a sudden and 
inexplicable fear of death took hold of him. He became acutely 
aware that he was going to die, although outwardly he was in 
good health. The thing was a psychological phenomenon, 
because there was no apparent reason why he should die. Yet 
he became obsessed with this notion and immediately began to 
prepare for the coming event. 

He stretched his body prone upon the floor, fixed his limbs 
in the rigidity of a corpse, closed his eyes and mouth, and 
finally held his breath. "Well, then," said I to myself, "this 
body is dead. It will be carried stiff to the burning ground and 
then reduced to ashes. But with the death of the body, am I 
dead? Is the body I This body is now silent and stiff. But I 
continue to feel the full force of my self apart from its condition." 

Those are the words which the Maharishee used in describ- 
ing the weird experience through which he passed. What 
happened next is difficult to understand though easy to 
describe. He seemed to fall into a profound conscious trance 
wherein he became merged into the very source of selfhood, the 
very essence of being. He understood quite clearly that the 
body was a thing apart and that the I remained untouched by 
death. The true self was very real, but it was so deep down in 
man's nature that hitherto he had ignored it. 

Ramana emerged from this amazing experience an utterly 
changed youth. He lost most of his interest in studies, sports, 
friends, and so on, because his chief interest was now centred 
in the sublime consciousness of the true self which he had found 
so unexpectedly. Fear of death vanished as mysteriously as it 
came. He enjoyed an inward serenity and a spiritual strength 
which have never since left him. Formerly he had been quick 
to retaliate at the other boys when they had chaffed him or 
attempted to take liberties, but now he put up with everything 
quite meekly. He suffered unjust acts with indifference and 
bore himself among others with complete humility. He gave 
up old habits and tried to be alone as much as possible, for then 
he would sink into meditation and surrender himself to the 
absorbing current of divine consciousness which constantly 
drew his attention inwards. 

These profound changes in his character were, of course, 
noticed by others. One day his elder brother came into the 
room when the boy was supposed to be doing his homework 


and found him sunk in meditation with closed eyes. The 
school books and papers had been tossed across the room in 
disgust. The brother was so annoyed at this neglect of studies 
that he jeered at him with sharp words: 

"What business has a fellow like you here? If you want to 
behave like a Yogi, why are you studying for a career?" 

Young Ramana was deeply stung by these words. He 
immediately realized their truth and silently decided to act 
upon them. His father was dead and he knew that his uncle 
and other brothers would take care of his mother. Truly he 
had no business there. And back into his,mind there flashed 
the name which had haunted him for nearly a year, the name 
whose very syllables fascinated him, the name of the temple of 
Arunachala. Thither would he go, although why he should 
select that place he was quite unable to say. But an impelling 
urgency arose within him and formed the decision for him of its 
own accord. It was entirely unpremeditated. 

"I was literally charmed here," said the Maharishee to me. 
"The same force which drew you to this place from Bombay, 
drew me to it from Madura." 

And so young Ramana, feeling this inner pull within his 
heart, left friends, family, school and studies, and took the 
road which eventually brought him to Arunachala and to a 
still profounder spiritual attainment. He left behind a brief 
farewell letter, which is still preserved in the hermitage. Its 
flourishing Tamil characters read as follows: 

"I have, in search of my Father and in obedience to His 
command, started from here. This is only embarking on a 
virtuous enterprise. Therefore none need grieve over this 
affair. To trace this out, no money need be spent." 

With three rupees in his pocket and an utter ignorance of 
the world, he set out on the journey into the interior of the 
South. The amazing incidents which marked that journey 
prove conclusively that some mysterious power was protecting 
and guiding him. When at last he arrived at his destination, 
he was utterly destitute and among total strangers. But the 
emotion of total renunciation was burning strong within him. 
Such was the youth's scorn for all earthly possessions, at the 
time, that he flung his robe aside and took up his meditative 
posture in the temple precinct quite nude. A priest observed 
this and remonstrated with him, but to no purpose. Other 
shocked priests came along, and, after vehement efforts, 
forced a concession from the youth. He consented to wear a 
semi-loincloth, and that is all he has ever worn to this day. 


For six months he occupied various spots in the precinct, 
never going anywhere else. He lived on some rice which was 
brought him once a day by a priest who was struck by the 
precocious behaviour of the youth. For Ramana spent the 
entire day plunged in mystical trances and spiritual ecstasies 
so profound that he was entirely oblivious of the world around 
him. When some rough Moslem youths flung mud at him 
and ran away, he was quite unaware of the fact until some hours 
later. He felt no resentment against them in his heart. 

The stream of pilgrims who descended on the temple made 
it difficult for him to obtain the seclusion he desired, so he left 
the place and moved to a quiet shrine set in the fields some 
distance from the village. Here he continued to stay for a year 
and a half. He was satisfied with the food brought by the few 
people who visited this shrine. 

Throughout this time he spoke to no one; indeed, he never 
opened his lips to talk until three years passed since his arrival 
in the district. This was not because he had taken a vow of 
silence, but because his inner monitor urged him to concentrate 
all his energy and attention upon his spiritual life. When his 
mystic goal was attained the inhibition was no longer necessary 
and he began to talk again, though the Maharishee has remained 
an extremely taciturn man. 

He kept his identity a complete secret, but, by a chain of 
coincidences, his mother discovered his whereabouts two years 
after his disappearance. She set out for the place with her 
eldest son and tearfully pleaded with him to return home. The 
lad refused to budge. When tears failed to persuade him she 
began to upbraid him for his indifference. Eventually he 
wrote down a reply on a piece of paper to the effect that a 
higher power controls the fate of men and that whatever she 
did could not change his destiny. He concluded by advising 
her to accept the situation and to cease moaning about it. 
And so she had to yield to his obstinacy. 

When, through this incident, people began to intrude on 
his seclusion in order to stare at the youthful Yogi, he left the 
place and climbed up the Hill of the Holy Beacon and made 
his residence in a large cavern, where he lived for several years. 
There are quite a few other caves on this hill and each one 
shelters holy men or Yogis. But the cave which sheltered 
young Ramana was noteworthy because it also contained the 
tomb of a great Yogi of the past. 

Cremation is the usual custom of the Hindus in disposing of 
their dead, but it is often prohibited in the case of a Yogi who 


is believed to have made the highest attainment, because it is 
also believed that the vital breath or unseen life-current 
remains in his body for thousands of years and renders the 
flesh exempt from corruption. In such a case the Yogi's body 
is bathed and anointed and then placed in a tomb in a sitting 
posture with crossed legs, as though he were still plunged in 
meditation. The entrance to the tomb is sealed with a heavy 
stone and then cemented over. Usually the mausoleum 
becomes a place of pilgrimage. There exists still another 
reason why great Yogis are buried and not cremated, and that 
is because of the belief that their bodies do not need to be 
purified by fire since they were purified during their lifetimes. 

It is interesting to consider that caves have always been a 
favourite residence of Yogis and holy men. The ancients 
consecrated them to the gods; Zoroaster, the founder of the 
Parsee faith, practised his meditations in a cave, while Muham- 
med received his religious experiences in a cave also. The 
Indian Yogis have very good reasons for preferring caves or 
subterranean retreats when better places are not available. 
For here they can find shelter from the vicissitudes of weather 
and from the rapid changes of temperature which divide days 
from nights in the tropics. There is less light and noise to 
disturb their meditations. And breathing the confined atmo- 
sphere of a cave causes the appetite to diminish markedly, thus 
conducing to a minimum of bodily cares. 

Still another reason which may have attracted Ramana to 
this particular cave on the Hill of the Holy Beacon was the 
beauty of its outlook. One can stand on a projecting spur 
adjoining the cave and see the little township stretched out 
flat in the distant plain, with the giant temple rising as its 
centre-piece. Far beyond the plain stands a long line of hills 
which frontier a charming panorama of Nature. 

Anyway, Ramana lived in this somewhat gloomy cavern for 
several years, engaged in his mysterious meditations and 
plunged in profound trances. He was not a Yogi in the 
orthodox sense, for he had never studied any system of Yoga 
and he had never practised under any teacher. The inner 
path which he followed was simply a track leading to self- 
knowledge; it was laid down by what he conceived to be the 
divine monitor within him. 

In 1905 plague appeared in the locality. The dread visitant 
was probably carried into the district by some pilgrim to the 
temple of Arunachala. It devastated the population so fiercely 
that almost everyone left the little township and fled in terror 


to safer villages or towns. So quiet did the deserted place 
become that tigers and leopards came out of their lurking dens 
in the jungle and moved openly through the streets. But, 
though they must have roamed the hill-side many times, for it 
stood in their path to the township, though they must have 
passed and repassed the Maharishee's cave, he refused to leave, 
but remained as calm and unmoved as ever. 

By this time the young hermit had involuntarily acquired a 
solitary disciple, who had become very much attached to him 
and persisted in staying by his side and attending to his needs. 
The man is now dead, but the legend has been handed down 
to other disciples that each night a large tiger came to the cave 
and licked Ramana's hands, and that the tiger was in return 
fondled by the hermit. It sat in front of him throughout the 
night and departed only at dawn. 

There is a widespread notion throughout India that Yogis and 
faqueers who live in the jungles or on the mountains, exposed to 
danger from lions, tigers, snakes and other wild creatures, 
move unharmed and untouched if they have attained a sufficient 
degree of Yogic power. Another story about Ramana told how 
he was once sitting in the afternoon outside the narrow entrance 
to his abode when a large cobra came swishing through the 
rocks and stopped in front of him. It raised its body and 
spread out its hood, but the hermit did not attempt to move. 
The two beings - man and beast - faced each other for some 
minutes, gaze meeting gaze. In the end the snake withdrew 
and left him unharmed, although it was within striking distance. 

The austere lonely life of this strange young man closed 
its first phase with his firm and permanent establishment in 
the deepest point of his own spirit. Seclusion was no longer 
an imperative need, but he continued to live at the cave until 
the visit of an illustrious Brahmin pundit, Ganapati Shastri, 
proved another turning-point of his outer life, which was now 
to enter on a more social period. The pundit had recently 
come to stay near the temple for study and meditation. He 
heard by chance that there was a very young Yogi on the hill 
and out of curiosity he went in search of him. When he found 
Ramana, the latter was staring fixedly at the sun. It was not 
at all uncommon for the hermit to keep his eyes on the dazzling 
sun for some hours till it disappeared below the western 
horizon. The glaring light of the rays of an afternoon sun in 
India can hardly be appreciated by a European who has never 
experienced it. I remember once, when I had set out to climb 
the steep ascent of the hill at a wrong hour being caught 


without shelter by the full glare of the sun at midday on my 
return journey. I staggered and reeled about like a drunken 
man for quite a time. So the feat of young Ramana in enduring 
the merciless glare of the sun, with face uplifted and eyes 
unflinching, may therefore be better evaluated. 

The pundit had studied all the chief books of Hindu wisdom 
for a dozen years and had undergone rigorous penances in an 
endeavour to reach some tangible spiritual benefit, but he was 
still afflicted by doubts and perplexities. He put a question 
to Ramana and after fifteen minutes received a reply which 
amazed him with its wisdom. He put further questions, 
involving his own philosophical and spiritual problems, and 
was still more astounded at the clearing-up of perplexities 
which had troubled him for years. As a result he prostrated 
himself before the young hermit and became a disciple. 
Shastri had his own group of followers in the town of Vellore 
and he went back later and told them that he had found a 
Maharishee (Great Sage or Seer), because the latter was 
undoubtedly a man of the highest spiritual realization whose 
teachings were so original that the pundit had found nothing 
exactly like them in any book he had read. From that time the 
title of Maharishee began to be applied to young Ramana by 
cultured people, although the common folk wanted to worship 
him as a divine being when his existence and character became 
better known to them. But the Maharishee strongly forbade 
every manifestation of such worship in his presence. Among 
themselves and in private talk with me, most of his devotees 
and people in the locality insist on calling him a god. 

A small group of disciples attached themselves to the 
Maharishee in time. They built a wooden frame bungalow 
on a lower spur of the hill and persuaded him to live in it with 
them. In different years his mother had paid him short 
visits and became reconciled to his vocation. When death 
parted her from her eldest son and other relatives, she came to 
the Maharishee and begged him to let her live with him. He 
consented. She spent the six years of life which were left to 
her at his side, and finished up by becoming an ardent disciple 
of her own son. In return for the hospitality which was given 
her in the little hermitage, she acted as cook. 

When the old lady died, her ashes were buried at the foot of 
the hill and some of the Maharishee's devotees built a small 
shrine over the place. Here, ever-burning sacred lamps glow 
in memory of this woman, who gave a great sage to mankind, 
and little heaps of scented jasmines and marigolds, snatched 


from their stalks, are thrown on a tiny altar in offering to her 

The efflux of time spread the reputation of the Maharishee 
throughout the locality, so that pilgrims to the temple were 
often induced to go up the hill and see him before they returned 
home. Quite recently the Maharishee yielded to incessant 
requests and consented to grace the new and large hall which 
was built at the foot of the hill as a residence for him and his 

The Maharishee has never asked for anything but food, 
and consistently refuses to handle money. Whatever else has 
come to him has been voluntarily pressed upon him by others. 
During those early years when he tried to live a solitary exist- 
ence, when he built a wall of almost impenetrable silent 
reserve around himself whilst he was perfecting his spiritual 
powers, he did not disdain to leave his cave with a begging 
bowl in hand and wander to the village for some food whenever 
the pangs of hunger stirred his body. An old widow took pity 
on him and thenceforth regularly supplied him with food, 
eventually insisting on bringing it up to his cave. Thus his 
venture of faith in leaving his comfortable middle-class home 
was, in a measure, justified, at any rate to the extent that 
whatever powers there be have ensured his shelter and food. 
Many gifts have since been offered him, but as a rule he 
turns them away. 

When a gang of dacoits broke into the hall one night not long 
ago and searched the place for money, they were unable to find 
more than a few rupees, which was in the care of the man who 
superintended the purchase of food. The robbers were so 
angry at this disappointment that they belaboured the Mahari- 
shee with stout clubs, severely marking his body. The sage 
not only bore their attack patiently, but requested them to take 
a meal before they departed. He actually offered them some 
food. He had no hate towards them in his heart. Pity for their 
spiritual ignorance was the sole emotion they aroused. He let 
them escape freely, but within a year they were caught while 
committing another crime elsewhere and received stiff sentences 
of penal servitude. 

Not a few Western minds will inevitably consider that this 
life of the Maharishee's is a wasted one. But perhaps it may be 
good for us to have a few men who sit apart from our world of 
unending activity and survey it for us from afar. The onlooker 
may see more of the game and sometimes he gets a truer per- 
spective. It may also be that a jungle sage, with self lying 


conquered at his feet, is not inferior to a worldly fool who is 
blown hither and thither by every circumstance. 


Day after day brings its fresh indications of the greatness of 
this man. Among the strangely diversified company of human 
beings who pass through the hermitage, a pariah stumbles into 
the hall in some great agony of soul or circumstance and pours 
out his tribulation at the Maharishee's feet. The sage does not 
reply, for his silence and reserve are habitual; one can easily 
count up the number of words he uses in a single day. Instead, 
he gazes quietly at the suffering man, whose cries gradually 
diminish until he leaves the hall two hours later a more serene 
and stronger man. 

I am learning to see that this is the Maharishee's way of 
helping others, this unobtrusive, silent and steady outpouring 
of healing vibrations into troubled souls, this mysterious tele- 
pathic process for which science will one day be required to 

A cultured Brahmin, college-bred, arrives with his questions. 
One can never be certain whether the sage will make a verbal 
response or not, for often he is eloquent enough without 
opening his lips. But to-day he is in a communicative mood 
and a few of his terse phrases, packed with profound meanings 
as they usually are, open many vistas of thought for the visitor. 

A large group of visitors and devotees are in the hall when 
someone arrives with the news that a certain man, whose 
criminal reputation is a byword in the little township, is dead. 
Immediately there is some discussion about him and, as is the 
wont of human nature, various people engage in recalling some 
of his crimes and the more dastardly phases of his character. 
When the hubbub has subsided and the discussion appears to 
have ended, the Maharishee opens his mouth for the first time 
and quietly observes: 

"Yes, but he kept himself very clean, for he bathed two or 
three times a day ! " 

A peasant and his family have travelled over one hundred 
miles to pay silent homage to the sage. He is totally illiterate, 
knows little beyond his daily work, his religious rites and 
ancestral superstitions. He has heard from someone that there 
is a god in human form living at the foot of the Hill of the Holy 
Beacon. He sits on the floor quietly after having prostrated 


himself three times. He firmly believes that some blessing of 
spirit or fortune will come to him as a result of this journey. 
His wife moves gracefully to his side and drops to the floor. 
She is clothed in a purple robe which flows smoothly from head 
to ankles and is then tucked into her waist. Her sleek and 
smooth hair is glossy with scented oil. Her daughter accom- 
panies her. She is a pretty girl whose ankle-rings click in 
consort as she steps into the hall. And she follows the 
charming custom of wearing a white flower behind her 

The little family stay for a few hours, hardly speaking, and 
gaze in reverence at the Maharishee. It is clear that his mere 
presence provides them with spiritual assurance, emotional 
felicity and, most paradoxical of all, renewed faith in their creed. 
For the sage treats all creeds alike, regards them all as significant 
and sincere expressions of a great experience, and honours 
Jesus no less than Krishna. 

On my left squats an old man of seventy-five. A quid of 
betel is comfortably tucked in his cheek, a Sanskrit book 
lies between his hands, and his heavy-lidded eyes stare medi- 
tatively at the bold print. He is a Brahmin who was a station- 
master near Madras for many years. He retired from the rail- 
way service at sixty and soon after his wife died. He took the 
opportunity thus presented of realizing some long-deferred 
aspirations. For fourteen years he travelled about the country 
on pilgrimage to the sages and saints and Yogis, trying to find 
one whose teachings and personality were sufficiently appealing 
to him. He had circled India thrice, but no such master had 
been discoverable. He had set up a very individual standard 
apparently. When we met and compared notes he lamented 
his failure. His rugged honest face, carved by wrinkles into 
dark furrows, appealed to me. He was not an intellectual man, 
but simple and quite intuitive. Being considerably younger 
than he, I felt it incumbent on me to give the old man some good 
advice! His surprising response was a request to become his 
master! "Your master is not far off," I told him and con- 
ducted him straightaway to the Maharishee. It did not take 
long for him to agree with me and become an enthusiastic 
devotee of the sage. 

Another man in the hall is bespectacled, silken-clad and 
prosperous-looking. He is a judge who has taken advantage of a 
law vacation to pay a visit to the Maharishee. He is a keen dis- 
ciple and strong admirer and never fails to come at least once a 
year. This cultured, refined and highly educated gentleman 


squats democratically among a group of Tamils who are poor, 
naked to the waist and smeared with oil, so that their bodies 
glisten like varnished ebony. That which brings them together, 
destroys the insufferable snobbishness of caste, and produces 
unity, is that which caused Princes and Rajahs to come from 
afar in ancient times to consult the forest Rishees - the deep 
recognition that true wisdom is worth the sacrifice of superficial 

A young woman with a gaily attired child enters and prostrates 
herself in veneration before the sage. Some profound problems 
of life are being discussed, so she sits in silence, not venturing 
to take part in intellectual conversation. Learning is not 
regarded as an ornament for Hindu women and she knows little 
outside the purlieus of culinary and domestic matters. But she 
knows when she is in the presence of undeniable greatness. 

With the descent of dusk comes the time for a general group 
meditation in the hall. Not infrequently the Maharishee will 
signal the time by entering, so gently as occasionally to be 
unnoticed, the trance-like abstraction wherein he locks his 
senses against the world outside. During these daily medita- 
tions in the potent neighbourhood of the sage, I have learnt 
how to carry my thoughts inward to an ever-deepening point. 
It is impossible to be in frequent contact with him without 
becoming lit up inwardly, as it were, mentally illumined by a 
sparkling ray from his spiritual orb. Again and again I become 
conscious that he is drawing my mind into his own atmosphere 
during these periods of quiet repose. And it is at such times 
that one begins to understand why the silences of this man are 
more significant than his utterances. His quiet unhurried 
poise veils a dynamic attainment, which can powerfully affect 
a person without the medium of audible speech or visible action. 
There are moments when I feel this power of his so greatly that I 
know he has only to issue the most disturbing command and 
I will readily obey it. But the Maharishee is the last person in 
the world to place his followers in the chains of servile obedi- 
ence, and allows everyone the utmost freedom of action. In 
this respect he is quite refreshingly different from most of the 
teachers and Yogis I have met in India. 

My meditations take the line he had indicated during my 
first visit, when he had tantalized me by the vagueness which 
seemed to surround many of his answers. I have begun to 
look into my own self. 

Who am I? 

Am I this body of flesh, blood and bone? 


Am I the mind, the thoughts and the feelings which dis- 
tinguish me from every other person? 

One has hitherto naturally and unquestioningly accepted the 
affirmative answers to these questions, but the Maharishee has 
warned me not to take them for granted. Yet he has refused to 
formulate any systematic teaching. The gist of his message is: 

"Pursue the enquiry 'Who am I ? ' relentlessly. Analyse 
your entire personality. Try to find out where the I-thought 
begins. Go on with your meditations. Keep turning your 
attention within. One day the wheel of thought will slow down 
and an intuition will mysteriously arise. Follow that intuition, 
let your thinking stop, and it will eventually lead you to the 

I struggle daily with my thoughts and cut my way slowly 
into the inner recesses of mind. In the helpful proximity of the 
Maharishee, my meditations and self-soliloquies become 
increasingly less tiring and more effective. A strong expectancy 
and sense of being guided inspire my constantly repeated efforts. 
There are strange hours when I am clearly conscious of the 
unseen power of the sage being powerfully impacted on my 
mentality, with the result that I penetrate a little deeper still 
into the shrouded borderland of being which surrounds the 
human mind. 

The close of every evening sees the emptying of the hall as 
the sage, his disciples and visitors, adjourn for supper to the 
dining-room. As I do not care for their food and will not 
trouble to prepare my own, I usually remain alone and await 
their return. However, there is one item of the hermitage diet 
which I find attractive and palatable, and that is curds. The 
Maharishee, having discovered my fondness for it, usually asks 
the cook to bring me a cupful of the drink each night. 

About half an hour after their return, the inmates of the 
hermitage, together with those visitors who have remained, 
wrap themselves up in sheets or thin cotton blankets and retire 
to sleep on the tiled floor of the hall. The sage himself uses 
his divan as a bed. Before he finally covers himself with the 
white sheets, his faithful attendant thoroughly massages his 
limbs with oil. 

I take up a glazed iron lantern when leaving the hall and set 
out on my lonely walk to the hut. Countless fireflies move 
amongst the flowers and plants and trees in the garden com- 
pound. Once, when I am two or three hours later than usual 
and midnight is approaching, I observe these strange insects 
put out their weird lights. Often they are just as numerous 


among the thick growths of bush and cactus through which I 
have later to pass. One has to be careful not to tread on scor- 
pions or snakes in the dark. Sometimes the current of medita- 
tion has seized me so profoundly that I am unable and unwilling 
to stop it, so that I pay little heed to the narrow path of lighted 
ground upon which I walk. And so I retire to my modest hut, 
close the tightly fitting heavy door, and draw the shutters over 
glassless windows to keep out unwelcome animal intruders. 
My last glimpse is of a thicket of palm trees which stands on 
one side of my clearing in the bush, the silver moonlight 
coming in streams over their interlaced feathery tops. 


ONE afternoon I notice a new visitor walk with dignified 
step into the hall and take his seat quite close to the 
Maharishee's couch. He is extremely dark-skinned, 
but otherwise his face is highly refined. He makes no attempt 
to speak, but the Maharishee immediately gives him a 
welcoming smile. 

The man's personality makes a powerful impression upon 
me. He looks like a graven Buddha. Extraordinary tranquil- 
lity is deeply charactered on his face. When our eyes meet 
eventually, he gazes for a long time at me until I turn away dis- 
quieted. Throughout the afternoon he does not utter a single 

My next contact with him comes the following day and in a 
totally unexpected manner. I leave the hall and return to my 
hut to prepare tea, as the servant Rajoo has gone off to the 
township for some things. Unlocking the heavy door I am 
about to step on the threshold, when something moves across 
the floor and stops within a few inches of my feet. Its furtive 
gliding motion and the faint hissing which I fancy I can hear 
warn me almost before I see it that a snake is in the room. For 
the moment I am so struck with horror at my escape from the 
death which lurks underfoot, that I am at a complete loss what 
to do. The creature holds my fascinated gaze . . . and yet it 
terrifies me. My nerves are strung to their highest pitch of 
tension. Horror and loathing rise up in the depths of my heart, 
but my eyes remain staring at the handsome shapely head of the 
creature. The surprise encounter has quite overwhelmed me. 
The malevolent reptile continues to watch me in a cold-blooded 
way, its hood raised around its sinewy neck and its sinister 
eyes fixed upon mine. 

At last I manage to recover my senses and draw back with a 
rush. I am about to go off for a heavy stick with which to 
break its spine, when the figure of yesterday's new visitor 



appears in the clearing. His noble face, with its habitual look 
of dignified reflection, slightly restores my calm. He approaches 
my hut, takes the situation in at a glance, and imperturbably 
begins to enter the room. I shout a warning to him, but he 
takes no notice. Once more I am distinctly unnerved. For, 
weaponless as he is, he holds both hands out towards the 

Its forked tongue moves about in its open mouth, but it does 
not attempt to attack him. Just then two men, attracted by the 
sound of my shout, come hurrying to the hut from the pool 
where they have been washing themselves. Before they reach 
us, the strange visitor stands quite close to the snake, which 
bends its head before him, and then he gently strokes its tail ! 

The fangs cease their sinister movement in the handsome, 
but venomous, head until the arrival of the other two men. 
Then the supple body of the snake begins to move with a quick 
writhing movement as it seems to recollect itself and, before 
four pairs of eyes, it slithers quickly out of the hut into the safe 
refuge of the jungle undergrowth. 

"It is a young cobra," remarks one of the late arrivals, who 
is a leading merchant in the township, and who often comes to 
pay his respects to the sage or to have a chat with me. 

I express my astonishment at the fearless way in which my 
first visitor handled the snake. 

"Ah, that is Yogi Ramiah," replies the merchant when I ask 
for an explanation. "He is one of the most advanced disciples 
of the Maharishee. A remarkable man!" 

It is not possible to enter into conversation with the Yogi 
because I discover that part of the special discipline which he 
has imposed upon himself consists in keeping strict silence, and 
because he comes from a Telegu-speaking district. His 
acquaintance with English is as limited as mine with Telegu; 
that is, almost nil. I learn also that he maintains an almost 
complete reserve and does not associate with the others in the 
place, as a rule; that he stays in a small stone shelter which he 
has had constructed under the shadow of some huge boulders 
on the other side of the pool; and that he has been a disciple 
of the Maharishee's for ten years. 

The gap between us is bridged, however, soon after. I meet 
him at the pool, whither he has come with a brass pitcher for 
water. His darkly mysterious, but benignant, countenance 
again attracts me and, as I happen to have a camera in my 
pocket, I request him by means of gestures to pose for his 
photograph. He offers no objection, and even follows me to 


the hut after it is taken. There we encounter the ex-station- 
master, who is squatting outside my door and awaiting my 

In the result I discover that the old man knows Telegu almost 
as well as he knows English and is quite agreeable to play the 
interpreter between us, with pencilled notes as a substitute for 
vocal speech. The Yogi is not very communicative and 
evidently dislikes being interviewed, but I manage to elicit a 
few more facts about him. 

Ramiah is still on the right side of forty. He owns some 
landed property in the Nellore district, and although he has not 
formally renounced the world, he lets his family carry on the 
active control of his estates so that he can give more time to 
his Yoga interests. He has a group of his own disciples in 
Nellore, but once every year he leaves them to visit the Maha- 
rishee, with whom he stays for two or three months at a 

He has made an extensive tour of South India in his younger 
days, when he sought actively for a master in Yoga. He has 
studied under different teachers and developed some excep- 
tional faculties and powers. Breathing exercises and meditation 
practices come easily to him. He appears to have outstripped 
his teachers, because he obtained experiences which they could 
not explain satisfactorily to him. As a consequence he came at 
last to the Maharishee, who quickly provided him with the 
correct explanation and assisted his further course. 

Yogi Ramiah tells me that he has come to stay for two 
months, bringing his own personal servant with him, and that 
he has been glad to find a Westerner taking an interest in the 
ancient wisdom of the East. I show him an illustrated English 
magazine and he makes a curious commentary upon one of the 

"When your wise men in the West leave off trying to make 
engines run faster than those which they already have and 
begin to look into their own selves, your race may then find 
more real happiness. Can you say that your people become 
more contented each time they discover something that enables 
them to travel more quickly?" 

Before he leaves me I question him about the incident with 
the young cobra. He smilingly scribbles a reply: 

"What have I to be afraid of? I approached it without 
hatred and with love for all beings in my heart." 

I fancy that there is more behind the Yogi's words than his 
somewhat sentimental explanation implies, but without further 


questioning I let him return to his lonely dwelling across the 

During the weeks which succeed my first meeting with 
Ramiah, I come to know him a little better. We meet fre- 
quently in the little clearing around my hut, or at the pool-side, 
or even outside his own dwelling. I find in his outlook some- 
thing which is conformable to my own temperament, while his 
large dark eyes possess a tranquillity which is singularly 
attractive. We strike up a strange kind of silent friendship, 
which culminates one day when he gives me his blessing by 
stroking my head and then clasping each hand in his own. Aside 
from a few pencilled notes in Telegu which the old man 
translates for me, no word is spoken during the whole of our 
association. Yet I feel that something is being built up between 
Ramiah and me which can never be broken down. From time 
to time I accompany him on short walks through the jungle 
areas, and once or twice we toil up the rugged hillside amid 
great boulders, but wherever we go he is always a serene 
dignified figure whose noble carriage I cannot help but admire. 

It is not long, however, before I receive another striking 
revelation of his extraordinary power. A letter has found its 
way to me, bringing extremely bad news. It means, so far as I 
can see, that my financial fuel will unexpectedly run so low 
soon that my stay in India must be cut short. I can, of course, 
enjoy the protracted hospitality of the Maharishee's hermitage 
which the disciples will doubtless offer, but such a position 
would go right against the grain of my nature. And in any case 
the matter is settled for me by certain obligations which I con- 
sider it my duty faithfully to meet, and which can now be met 
only through the resumption of activities in the West. 

The news provides an excellent test of the mental and 
spiritual training which I have been undergoing, and so poor is 
my material that I emerge quite uncreditably. I feel badly 
shaken. I am unable to effect my usual inner contact with the 
Maharishee in the hall, and leave him abruptly after a short 
visit. For the rest of the day I wander about somewhat discon- 
solate, a silent rebel against the crushing power of fate, which 
can upset all one's plans by a single blow. 

I turn into the hut and fling a weary body and wearier mind 
upon the blanket. Some kind of deep reverie must have super- 
vened, for, a while later, I start with sudden shock at a gentle 
tap on the door. I bid the visitor enter. Very slowly the door 
opens and to my surprise Ramiah's figure enters the hut. 

I rise hastily and then, when he squats down, do the same 


facing him. He looks intently at me, a questioning expression 
in his eyes. I am alone with a man whose tongue I cannot 
speak and who cannot speak a word of English. Yet a queer 
feeling impels me to address him in my tongue which is so 
alien to him, in the almost fantastic expectation that he will 
catch my thoughts, though he fail to catch my words ! And so, 
in a few jerky phrases, I hint at the difficulties which have 
suddenly dropped out of the skies upon me, and supplement 
my speech with gestures of defeat and expressions of disgust. 

Ramiah listens quietly. When I finish he nods his head 
gravely in sympathetic response. A little later he rises and, 
with signs and gestures, invites me to follow him outside. Our 
path lies through shaded jungle, but before long emerges in a 
large dusty open space, where we are exposed to the full glare 
of the afternoon sun. I continue to follow him for about half 
an hour, when I seek the shelter of a banyan tree which then 
lends its protecting shade to my overheated body. After a 
short rest we travel on for another half-hour, again crossing a 
patch of scrub jungle, and ultimately wander down to a great 
pool by a route with which Ramiah appears to be familiar. Our 
feet sink deeply into its soft, sandy bank as we walk up to a patch 
of water which is overgrown with coloured lotuses. 

The Yogi selects the shade of an exceptionally low tree and 
seats himself beneath it. I drop to the sand and squat beside 
him. The tufted head of the palmyra is spread out above us 
like a green umbrella. We seem to be entirely alone in this 
quiet corner of our turning globe, for a bare deserted landscape 
stretches away for a couple of miles until it meets dense hilly 
jungle again. 

Ramiah crosses his legs and folds his feet under him in his 
customary meditation posture. He beckons me with his finger 
to approach a trifle closer. Then his placid face turns to the 
front and his eyes gaze steadily across the water, and he quickly 
sinks into a condition of profound meditation. 

The minutes which seem so slow creep past, but Ramiah 
remains quite motionless, with his face as tranquil as the surface 
of the pool beside which we squat, and with his body fitting into 
Nature's landscape like a tree unstirred by the slightest wind. 
A half- hour passes, yet he still sits under the palmyra, very 
strange and very quiet, wrapt in introspective silence. His 
face now seems transfigured by a profounder peace than usual, 
and his rigid eyes are fixed either in vacancy or on the distant 
hills - I do not know which. 

It is not much longer before I become acutely susceptible to 


the silence of our lonely surroundings and to the amazing calm 
of my companion. Little by little, with an insidious but persis- 
tent gentleness, peace weaves itself into the texture of my soul. 
The mood of serene triumph over personal distresses, which 
I could not reach before, now comes to me more easily. In his 
own mysterious way the Yogi is helping me; I cannot 
doubt that. Barely a breath comes from his quiet form, so 
sunk is he in deepest contemplation. What is the secret of his 
sublime condition? What is the source of this beneficent 
radiation which emanates from him? 

The heat is lessening with the approach of evening, and the 
baked sand begins to cool. A ray of vivid gold from the 
westering sun falls on the Yogi's face, turning his motionless 
body for the nonce into a haloed idol. I let go of him in thought 
that I may turn again to enjoy the increasing peace which is 
flowing in waves over my being. The changes and chances of 
mundane existence now take their fit proportions, as I begin to 
live in my own diviner depths. I perceive with startling clarity 
that a man can look serenely upon his tribulations, if only he 
can find the standpoint of his deeper self; that it is foolish to 
cling to the transient comfort of worldly hopes when the 
unchanging certainty of a diviner protection awaits his accep- 
tance; and that the reason why the wise Galilean told his dis- 
ciples to take no thought for the morrow was because a higher 
power had taken thought for them. I perceive, too, that once a 
man accepts this invitation to place his confidence in the 
prophetic element within his being, he may pass through the 
vicissitudes of human life in this world without fear and without 
faltering. And I feel that somewhere close at hand there is the 
fundamental value of life, in whose calm air no cares may exist. 
Thus the burden which lay so heavy on my mind vanishes with 
this change of spiritual atmosphere. 

I reck little of time during this beautiful experience, and I do 
not know how one can satisfactorily explain the mystery of the 
divine within-ness and its independence of any temporal sense. 
Twilight falls upon the vivid scene. Somewhere in the dim 
recesses of memory I am aware that night comes in these tropic 
parts with surprising quickness, yet I feel no concern about the 
matter. It is enough that this wonderful man at my side is 
content to stay and lead me inwards to the sovereign good, 

When at length he lightly touches my arm as a signal to rise, 
the darkness is complete. Hand in hand we wander into the 
night through this lonely and desolate region, making the 


homeward journey without light and without track, guided 
only by Yogi Ramiah's uncanny sense of location. At any 
other time this place would have filled me with unpleasant 
fears, for past experience of the jungle at night has left eerie 
memories; one felt that a world of unseen living forms was 
close at hand, with animals moving hither and thither. And 
for a moment or two there flashes across my mind's eye a 
picture of Jackie, the dog which often companions my walks 
in the district and my meals at the hut, with the two scars 
around his throat from cheetah-bites, and of his unfortunate 
brother who was captured by the same cheetah and never seen 
again. Perchance I, too, may see the glowing jade-green eyes 
of a prowling, hungry cheetah, or tread unwittingly in the 
darkness on a cobra lying coiled up on the ground, or even 
touch a king scorpion, that deadly, little white monster, with 
my sandalled foot. But, almost immediately afterwards, I 
feel ashamed of these thoughts in the Yogi's fearless presence 
and at once resign myself to his protective aura, which I 
somehow feel is enfolding me. 

The strange chorus of nature which begins with the Indian 
dawn is now being rivalled by the stranger chorus which 
begins when the night is somewhat advanced. A jackal 
sounds repeatedly in the distance, and once there comes the 
ominous echo of a wild beast's snarl, and when we near the 
pool which divides our respective dwellings the croaks of frogs, 
lizards and bats come to our ears. . . . 

In the morning I open my eyes on a sunny universe and my 
heart to its sunny message. 


My pen would wander on into some account of the scenic 
life around me, and into further record of many talks with the 
Maharishee, but it is now time to draw this chronicle to a close. 

I study him intently and gradually come to see in him the 
child of a remote Past, when the discovery of spiritual truth 
was reckoned of no less value than is the discovery of a gold 
mine to-day. It dawns upon me with increasing force that in 
this quiet and obscure corner of South India, I have been led 
to one of the last of India's spiritual supermen. The serene 
figure of this living sage brings the legendary figures of his 
country's ancient Rishees nearer to me. One senses that the 
most wonderful part of this man is withheld. His deepest 


soul, which one instinctively recognizes as being loaded with 
rich wisdom, eludes one. At times he still remains curiously 
aloof, and at other times the kindly benediction of his interior 
grace binds me to him with hoops of steel. I learn to submit 
to the enigma of his personality, and to accept him as I find 
him. But if, humanly speaking, he is well insulated against 
outside contacts, whoever discovers the requisite Ariadne's 
thread can walk the inner path leading to spiritual contact 
with him. And I like him greatly because he is so simple and 
modest, when an atmosphere of authentic greatness lies so 
palpably around him; because he makes no claims to occult 
powers and hierophantic knowledge to impress the mystery- 
loving nature of his countrymen; and because he is so totally 
without any traces of pretension that he strongly resists every 
effort to canonize him during his lifetime. 

It seems to me that the presence of men like the Maharishee 
ensures the continuity down history of a divine message from 
regions not easily accessible to us all. It seems to me, further, 
that one must accept the fact that such a sage comes to reveal 
something to us, not to argue anything with us. At any rate, 
his teachings make a strong appeal to me for his personal 
attitude and practical method, when understood, are quite 
scientific in their way. He brings in no supernatural power and 
demands no blind religious faith. The sublime spirituality of 
the Maharishee's atmosphere and the rational self-questioning 
of his philosophy find but a faint echo in yonder temple. 
Even the word " God " is rarely on his lips. He avoids the 
dark and debatable waters of wizardry, in which so many 
promising voyages have ended in shipwreck. He simply puts 
forward a way of self-analysis, which can be practised 
irrespective of any ancient or modern theories and beliefs 
which one may hold, a way that will finally lead man to 
true self-understanding. 

I follow this process of self-divestment in the effort to arrive 
at pure integral being. Again and again I am aware that the 
Maharishee's mind is imparting something to my own, though 
no words may be passing between us. The shadow of im- 
pending departure hangs over my efforts, yet I spin out my 
stay until bad health takes a renewed hand in the game and 
accelerates an irrevocable decision to go. Indeed, out of the 
deep inner 'urgency which drew me here, has come enough 
will power to overthrow the plaints of a tired sick body and a 
weary brain and to enable me to maintain residence in this 
hot static air. But Nature will not be defeated for long and 


before long a physical breakdown becomes threateningly 
imminent. Spiritually my life is nearing its peak, but - strange 
paradox! - physically it is slipping downwards to a point lower 
than it has hitherto touched. For a few hours before the arrival 
of the culminating experience of my contact with the Maha- 
rishee, I start to shiver violently and to perspire with abnormal 
profuseness - intimations of coming fever. 

I return hastily from an exploration of some usually veiled 
sanctuaries of the great temple and enter the hall when the 
evening meditation period has run out half its life. I slip 
quietly to the floor and straightway assume my regular medita- 
tion posture. In a few seconds I compose myself and bring 
all wandering thoughts to a strong centre. An intense 
interiorization of consciousness comes with the closing of eyes. 

The Maharishee's seated form floats in a vivid manner 
before my mind's eye. Following his frequently repeated 
instruction I endeavour to pierce through the mental picture 
into that which is formless, his real being and inner nature, his 
soul. To my surprise the effort meets with almost instantaneous 
success and the picture disappears again, leaving me with 
nothing more than a strongly felt sense of his intimate presence. 

The mental questionings which have marked most of my 
earlier meditations have lately begun to cease. I have repeatedly 
interrogated my consciousness of physical, emotional and 
mental sensations in turn, but, dissatisfied in the quest of self, 
have eventually left them all. I have then applied the attention 
of consciousness to its own centre, striving to become aware of 
its place of origin. Now comes the supreme moment. In 
that concentration of stillness, the mind withdrawn into itself, 
one's familiar world begins to fade off into shadowy vagueness. 
One is apparently environed for a while by sheer nothingness, 
having arrived at a kind of mental blank wall. And one has 
to be as intense as possible to maintain one's fixed attention. 
But how hard to leave the lazy dalliance of our surface life and 
draw the mind inwards to a pin-point of concentration! 

To-night I flash swiftly to this point, with barely a skirmish 
against the continuous sequence of thoughts which usually 
play the prelude to its arrival. Some new and powerful force 
comes into dynamic action within my inner world and bears 
me inwards with resistless speed. The first great battle is 
over, almost without a stroke, and a pleasurable, happy, easeful 
feeling succeeds its high tension. 

In the next stage I stand apart from the intellect, conscious 
that it is thinking, but warned by an intuitive voice that it is 


merely an instrument. I watch these thoughts with a weird 
detachment. The power to think, which has hitherto been a 
matter for merely ordinary pride, now becomes a thing from 
which to escape, for I perceive with startling clarity that I have 
been its unconscious captive. There follows the sudden 
desire to stand outside the intellect and just be. I want to dive 
into a place deeper than thought. I want to know what it will 
feel like to deliver myself from the constant bondage of the 
brain, but to do so with all my attention awake and alert. 

It is strange enough to be able to stand aside and watch the 
very action of the brain as though it were someone else's, and 
to see how thoughts take their rise and then die, but it is 
stranger still to realize intuitively that one is about to penetrate 
into the mysteries which hide the innermost recesses of man's 
soul. I feel like some Columbus about to land on an uncharted 
continent. A perfectly controlled and subdued anticipation 
quietly thrills me. 

But how divorce oneself from the age-old tyranny of 
thoughts? I remember that the Maharishee has never 
suggested that I should attempt to force the stoppage of thinking. 
"Trace thought to its place of origin," is his reiterated 
counsel, "watch for the real self to reveal itself, and then 
your thoughts will die down of their own accord." So, feeling 
that I have found the birthplace of thinking, I let go of the 
powerfully positive attitude which has brought my attention 
to this point and surrender myself to complete passivity, yet 
still keeping as intently watchful as a snake of its prey. 

This poised condition reigns until I discover the correctness 
of the sage's prophecy. The waves of thought naturally begin 
to diminish. The workings of logical rational sense drop 
towards zero point. The strangest sensation I have experienced 
till now grips me. Time seems to reel dizzily as the antennas 
of my rapidly growing intuition begin to reach out into the 
unknown. The reports of my bodily senses are no longer 
heard, felt, remembered. I know that at any moment I shall 
be standing outside things, on the very edge of the world's 
secret. . . . 

Finally it happens. Thought is extinguished like a snuffed 
candle. The intellect withdraws into its real ground, that is, 
consciousness working unhindered by thoughts. I perceive, 
what I have suspected for some time and what the Maharishee 
has confidently affirmed, that the mind takes its rise in a 
transcendental source. The brain has passed into a state of 
complete suspension, as it does in deep sleep, yet there is 


not the slightest loss of consciousness. I remain perfectly 
calm and fully aware of who I am and what is occurring. Yet 
my sense of awareness has been drawn out of the narrow 
confines of the separate personality; it has turned into some- 
thing sublimely all-embracing. Self still exists, but it is a 
changed, radiant self. For something that is far superior to 
the unimportant personality which was I, some deeper, diviner 
being rises into consciousness and becomes me. With it arrives 
an amazing new sense of absolute freedom, for thought is like 
a loom-shuttle which is always going to and fro, and to be 
freed from its tyrannical motion is to step out of prison into 
the open air. 

I find myself outside the rim of world consciousness. The 
planet which has so far harboured me, disappears. I am in the 
midst of an ocean of blazing light. The latter, I feel rather 
than think, is the primeval stuff out of which worlds are 
created, the first state of matter. It stretches away into 
unreliable infinite space, incredibly alive. 

I touch, as in a flash, the meaning of this mysterious universal 
drama which is being enacted in space, and then return to the 
primal point of my being. I, the new I, rest in the lap of holy 
bliss. I have drunk the Platonic Cup of Lethe, so that yester- 
day's bitter memories and to-morrow's anxious cares have 
disappeared completely. I have attained a divine liberty and 
an almost indescribable felicity. My arms embrace all creation 
with profound sympathy, for I understand in the deepest 
possible way that to know all is not merely to pardon all, but 
to love all. My heart is remoulded in rapture. 

How shall I record these experiences through which I next 
pass, when they are too delicate for the touch of my pen? 
Yet the starry truths which I learn may be translated into the 
language of earth, and the effort will not be a vain one. So I 
seek, all too roughly, to bring back some memorials of the 
wonderful archaic world which stretches out, untracked and 
unpathed, behind the human mind. 

* Man is grandly related and a greater Being suckled him than 
his mother. In his wiser moments he may come to know this. 

* Once, in the far days of his own past, man took an oath of 
lofty allegiance and walked, turbaned in divine grandeur, with 


the gods. If to-day the busy world calls to him with imperious 
demand and he gives himself up to it, there are those who have not 
forgotten his oath and he shall be reminded of it at the appropriate 

* There is That in man which belongs to an imperishable race. He 
neglects his true self almost completely, but his neglect can never 
affect or alter its shining greatness. He may forget it and entirely 
go to sleep in the senses, yet on the day when it stretches forth its 
hand and touches him, he shall remember who he is and recover 
his soul. 

*Man does not put the true value upon himself because he has lost 
the divine sense. Therefore he runs after another man's opinion, 
when he could find complete certitude more surely in the spiritually 
authoritative centre of his own being. The Sphinx surveys no 
earthly landscape. Its unflinching gaze is always directed 
inwards, and the secret of its inscrutable smile is self-knowledge. 

* He who looks within himself and perceives only discontent, 
frailty, darkness and fear, need not curl his lip in mocking doubt. 

Let him look deeper and longer, deeper and longer, until he 
presently becomes aware of faint tokens and breath-like indications 
which appear when the heart is still. Let him heed them well, for 
they will take life and grow into high thoughts that will cross the 
threshold of his mind like wandering angels, and these again shall 
become forerunners of a voice which will come later - the voice of a 
hidden, recondite and mysterious being who inhabits his centre, who 
is his own ancient self 

* The divine nature reveals itself anew in every human life, but if 

a man walk indifferently by, then the revelation is as seed on stony 
ground. No one is excluded from this divine consciousness; it is 
man who excludes himself. Men make formal and pretentious 
enquiry into the mystery and meaning of life, when all the while 
each bird perched upon a green bough, each child holding its fond 
mother's hand, has solved the riddle and carries the answer in its 


face. That Life which brought you to birth, O Man! is nobler and 
greater than your farthest thought; believe in its beneficent inten- 
tion towards you and obey its subtle injunctions whispered to your 
heart in half-felt intuitions. 

* The man who thinks he may live as freely as his unconsidered 
desires prompt him and yet not carry the burden of an eventual 
reckoning, is binding his life to a hollow dream. Whoever sins 
against his fellows or against himself pronounces his own sentence 
thereby. He may hide his sins from the sight of others, but he 
cannot hide them from the all-recording eyes of the gods. Justice 
still rules the world with inexorable weight, though its operations 
are often unseen and though it is not always to be found in stone- 
built courts of law. Whoever escapes from paying the legal 
penalties of earth can never escape from paying the just penalties 

which the gods impose. Nemesis - remorseless and implacable - 
holds such a man in jeopardy every hour. 

* Those who have been held under the bitter waters of sorrow, those 
who have moved through shadowed years in the mist of tears, will 
be somewhat readier to receive the truth which life, is ever silently 
voicing. If they can perceive nothing else, they can perceive the 
tragical transience which attends the smiles of fortune. Those who 
refuse to be deluded by their brighter hours will not suffer so 
greatly from their darker ones. There is no life that is not made 
up of the warp of pleasure and the woof of suffering. Therefore 
no man can afford to walk with proud and pontifical air. He who 
does so takes his perambulation at a grave peril. For humility is 
the only befitting robe to wear in the presence of the unseen gods, 
who may remove in a few days what has been acquired during 
many years. The fate of all things moves in cycles and only the 
thoughtless observer can fail to note this fact. Even in the 
universe it may be seen that every perihelion is succeeded by an 
aphelion. So in the life and fortunes of man, the flood of pros- 
perity may be succeeded by the ebb of privation, health may be 
a fickle guest, while love may come only to wander again. But 


when the night of protracted agony dies, the dawn of new-found 
wisdom glimmers. The last lesson of these things is that the 
eternal refuge in man, unnoticed and unsought as it may be, must 
become what it was once - his solace, or disappointment and 
suffering will periodically conspire to drive him in upon it. No 
man is so lucky that the gods permit him to avoid these two great 
tutors of the race. 

* A man will feel safe, protected, secure, only when he discovers 
that the radiant wings of sublimity enfold him. While he persists 
in remaining unillumined his best inventions shall become his worst 
impediments, and everything that draws him closer to the material 

frame of things shall become another knot he must later untie. For 
he is inseparably allied to his ancient past, he stands always in the 

presence of his inner divinity and cannot shake it off. Let him, 
then, not remain unwitting of this fact but deliver himself, his 
worldly cares and secret burdens, into the beautiful care of his 
better self and it shall not fail him. Let him do this, if he would 
live with gracious peace and die with fearless dignity. 

* He who has once seen his real self will never again hate another 
There is no sin greater than hatred, no sorrow worse than the 
legacy of lands splashed with blood which it inevitably bestows, no 
result more certain than that it will recoil on those who send it 

forth. Though none can hope to pass beyond their sight, the gods 
themselves stand unseen as silent witnesses of man's awful handi- 
work. A moaning world lies in woe all around them, yet sublime 

peace is close at hand for all; weary men, tried by sorrow and 
torn by doubts, stumble and grope their way through the darkened 
streets of life, yet a great light beats down upon the paving-stones 
before them. Hate will pass from the world only when man learns 
to see the faces of his fellows, not merely by the ordinary light of 
day, but by the transfiguring light of their divine possibilities; 
when he can regard them with the reverence they deserve as the 

faces of beings in whose hearts dwells an element akin to that 
Power which men name God. 


* All that is truly grand in Nature and inspiringly beautiful in the 
arts speaks to man of himself. Where the priest has failed his 

people the illumined artist takes up his forgotten message and pro- 
cures hints of the soul for them. Whoever can recall rare moments 
when beauty made him a dweller amid the eternities should, 
whenever the world tires him, turn memory into a spur and seek out 
the sanctuary within. Thither he should wander for a little peace, 
a flush of strength and a glimmer of light, confident that the 
moment he succeeds in touching his true selfhood he will draw 
infinite support and find perfect compensation. Scholars may 
burrow like moles among the growing piles of modern books and 
ancient manuscripts which line the walls of the house of learning, 
but they can learn no deeper secret than this, no higher truth than 
the supreme truth that man's very self is divine. The wistful hopes 
of man may wane as the years pass, but the hope of undying life, 
the hope of perfect love, and the hope of assured happiness, shall 
ultimately find a certain fulfilment; for they constitute prophetic 
instincts of an ineluctable destiny which can in no way be 

* The world looks to ancient prophets for its finest thoughts and 
cringes before dusty eras for its noblest ethics. But when a man 
receives the august revelation of his own starry nature, he is over- 
whelmed. All that is worthy in thought andfeeling now comes 
unsought to his feet. Inside the cloistral quiet of his mind arise 
visions not less sacred than those of the Hebrew and Arab seers, 
who reminded their race of its divine source. By this same auroral 
light Buddha understood and brought news of Nirvana to men. 
And such is the all-embracing love which this understanding 
awakens, that Mary Magdalene wept out her soiled life at the feet 
of Jesus. 

* No dust can ever settle on the grave grandeur of these ancient 
truths, though they have lain in time since the early days of our 
race. No people has ever existed but has also received intimations 
of this deeper life which is open to man. Whoever is ready to 


accept them must not only apprehend these truths with his intelli- 
gence, until they sparkle among his thoughts like stars among the 
asteroids, but must appropriate them with his heart until they 
inspire him to diviner action. 


I return to this mundane sphere impelled by a force which I 
cannot resist. By slow unhurried stages I become aware of my 
surroundings. I discover that I am still sitting in the hall of 
the Maharishee and that it is apparently deserted. My eyes 
catch sight of the hermitage clock and I realize that the inmates 
must be in the dining-room at their evening meal. And then I 
become aware of someone on my left. It is the seventy-five- 
year-old ex-stationmaster, who is squatting close beside me on 
the floor with his gaze turned benevolently on me. 

"You have been in a spiritual trance for nearly two hours," 
he informs me. His face, seamed with years and lined with old 
cares, breaks into smiles as though he rejoices in my own 
happiness. 1 

I endeavour to make some reply, but discover to my astonish- 
ment that my power of speech has gone. Not for almost fifteen 
minutes do I recover it. Meanwhile the old man supplements 
the further statement: 

"The Maharishee watched you closely all the time. I 
believe his thoughts guided you." 

When the sage returns to the hall, those who follow him take 
up their positions for the short interval which precedes the final 
retirement for the night. He raises himself up on the divan 
and crosses his legs; then, resting an elbow on the right thigh, 
he holds his chin within the upright hand, two fingers covering 
his cheek. Our eyes meet across the intervening space and he 
continues to look intently at me. 

The reader should not be misled into believing that such an experience re- 
mains continuous and permanent; it is only a temporary but valuable raising of 
consciousness which passes away. It is of the category which I have called 
"Moments of Illumination." The nature of such a glimpse is explained in the 
last chapter of my book The Spiritual Crisis of Man. To establish oneself on, and 
keep this high level it is essential in most cases to work on oneself and develop 
the right conditions within oneself. For the philosophical enlightenment see 
The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga and The Wisdom of the Overself. 


And when the attendant lowers the wicks of the hall's lamps, 
following the customary nightly practice, I am struck once again 
by the strange lustre in the Maharishee's calm eyes. They 
glow like twin stars through the half-darkness. I remind myself 
that never have I met in any man eyes as remarkable as those of 
this last descendant of India's Rishees. In so far as the human 
eyes can mirror divine power, it is a fact that the sage's do that. 

The heavily scented incense smoke rises in soft spirals the 
while I watch those eyes that never flicker. During the forty 
minutes which pass so strangely, I say nothing to him and he 
says nothing to me. What use are words? We now understand 
each other better without them, for in this profound silence our 
minds approach a beautiful harmony, and in this optic tele- 
graphy I receive a clear unuttered message. Now that I have 
caught a wonderful and memorable glimpse of the Maharishee's 
view-point on life, my own inner life has begun to mingle with 

I fight the oncoming fever during the two days which follow 
and manage to keep it at bay. 

The old man approaches my hut in the afternoon. 

"Your stay among us draws to an end, my brother," he says 
regretfully. "But you will surely return to us one day?" 

"Most surely!" I echo confidently. 

When he leaves me I stand at the door and look up at the 
Hill of the Holy Beacon - Arunachala, the Sacred Red Moun- 
tain, as the people of the countryside prefer to call it. It has 
become the colourful background of all my existence; always I 
have but to raise my eyes from whatever I am doing, whether 
eating, walking, talking or meditating, and there is its strange, 
flat-headed shape confronting me in the open or through a 
window. It is somehow inescapable in this place, but the 
strange spell it throws over me is more inescapable still. I 
begin to wonder whether this queer, solitary peak has enchanted 
me. There is a local tradition that it is entirely hollow and that 
in its interior dwell several great spiritual beings who are 
invisible to mortal gaze, but I disdain the story as a childish 
legend. And yet this lonely hill holds me in a powerful thrall, 
despite the fact that I have seen others infinitely more attrac- 
tive. This rugged piece of Nature, with its red laterite boulders 


tumbled about in disorderly masses and glowing like dull fire 
in the sunlight, possesses a strong personality which emanates a 
palpable awe-creating influence. 

With the fall of dusk I take my farewells of everyone except 
the Maharishee. I feel quietly content because my battle for 
spiritual certitude has been won, and because I have won it 
without sacrificing my dearly held rationalism for a blind 
credulity. Yet when the Maharishee comes to the courtyard 
with me a little later, my contentment suddenly deserts me. 
This man has strangely conquered me and it deeply affects my 
feelings to leave him. He has grappled me to his own soul 
with unseen hooks which are harder than steel, although he has 
sought only to restore a man to himself, to set him free and not 
to enslave him. He has taken me into the benign presence of 
my spiritual self and helped me, dull Westerner that I am, to 
translate a meaningless term into a living and blissful experience. 

I linger over our parting, unable to express the profound 
emotions which move me. The indigo sky is strewn with stars, 
which cluster in countless thousands close over our heads. The 
rising moon is a thin crescent disc of silver light. On our left 
the evening fireflies are making the compound grove radiant, 
and above them the plumed heads of tall palms stand out in 
black silhouette against the sky. 

My adventure in self-metamorphosis is over, but the turning 
axle of time will bring me back to this place, I know. I raise 
my palms and close them together in the customary salutation 
and then mutter a brief good-bye. The sage smiles and looks 
at me fixedly, but says not a word. 

One last look towards the Maharishee, one last glimpse by 
dim lantern light of a tall copper-skinned figure with lustrous 
eyes, another farewell gesture on my part, a slight wave of his 
right hand in response, and we part. 

I climb into the waiting bullock-cart, the driver swishes his 
whip, the obedient creatures turn out of the courtyard into the 
rough path and then trot briskly away into the jasmine-scented 
tropic night.